During the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity of working for desktop computing here on campus. A large part of my job, not to mention a personal burden while I was trying to move from summer to fall housing, requires me to push computers and monitors around the campus in a cart. It wasn’t until I started needing to push a cart stacked with computers from Seelye Mudd to Webster in the 97-degree humid heat that this summer averaged that I realized how horribly inaccessible this campus is, and how difficult life must be for those students in wheelchairs.
I live out most of my academic life in Seelye Mudd and Webster because of my interest in math and computers, so I’ve made the trek between the two buildings too many times already. I’d estimate that the cross takes no longer than a minute or two. A problem arises, however, with the three steps that one must climb in order to gain access to Webster Hall. To avoid those three steps involves climbing a hill and then avoiding moving vehicles on the Freshman Quad, which I did with my cartload of computers, only to find that the paved path leading to Webster is gone due to construction.
I faced similar problems while trying to move my belongings from Drew to Jenkins with the aid of another cart. As I discovered with yet another building on campus, there is no way to push a cart into Drew unless you want to carry it up seven formidable steps, and then carry it back down fully loaded on the way out. I eventually settled for leaving the cart at the Drew parking lot, only to discover that I’d either have to wheel through a lawn or a steep slope to get there. The same problem occurs in many other dormitories that I’ve been to Marsh, James, Stearns, North, Pratt, etc.
Sure, one can argue that the College does provide some sort of entrance, no matter how roundabout, into all public buildings and that handicap-accessible housing is available in specific dormitories around campus, but there’s still so much more that could be done. What about those other dormitories, like the ones I mentioned, where steps are unavoidable? How hard is it to turn a step or two of stairs into a ramp? Are handicapped students supposed to just avoid those dorms during all four years of their college experience? Well, the College does have one saving grace: the modular housing. Equipped with the latest in accessible technology (ramps), they are located below a beautiful hill that freezes pretty solid during our lovely New England winters … Oh, never mind.
I guess I’m just really lucky that all I ever need to carry up those steps won’t total over fifty pounds.
Wing Mui ’05