Last updated on November 13, 2019
As we look at accessibility and our campus, it’s important to look at it through both the eyes of current students and the eyes of perspective students. Our admissions department has a specific route and plan for people who come to campus with physical accessibility difficulties, but how accessible is it really?
The idea for this blog post came about when a peer, Ana Faguy, had told me a story about an experience she had last weekend at our Admitted Students Day. One of the families that she interacted with had a member who was in a wheelchair. They had asked her if they could take a tour of the campus, however, Faguy had told them about how the campus really wasn’t accessible, “We mapped out a schedule from there of what she could and couldn’t do and where she could and couldn’t go, she was interested in getting a financial aid presentation – those were happening in Barbelian, a place that has no accessible entrances.” As she was telling me this story, it made me question how administrations handle situations like this.
I spoke to Brendan Kiely, an executive member on the admissions tour captains board, and he broke down the accessibility route for me. The plan takes students and their families on a much longer and “out of the way” route since the campus has so many hills and not many ways around the stair cases. “Normally I can give a tour in about an hour and ten minutes, but when I have to take families on the accessibility route, tours take about an hour and a half”, Kiely explained, “It’s pretty much as good as we can get on the campus we have, that being said the campus could be a whole lot better.”
What I found astonishing, yet also not surprising, during this research was that this accessibility route plan wasn’t developed until this past year. Julianna Abramson, another Hawk Host member, designed the route after she tore her ACL her freshman year. She spoke about her experiences with Public Safety during the time she tore her ACL, saying that “they were constantly not getting me…one time I was there waiting for 2 hours and I had called them saying I have now missed class, I couldn’t get to my dorm and the guy on the phone just laughed and said ‘wow you’re really persistent’…” Something no one should have to go through. Luckily for Julianna, her situation was just temporary, but what about the students, faculty, and staff who have to do this sort of thing every day?
With this in mind, Julianna and the admissions teamed developed the route for families who need an accessibility friendly tour. While there are flaws within it, it at least is now existing and creates some sort of option for the families. As I was talking with Julianna, she mentioned how families who go on the tour always make comments about how the campus really isn’t accessible and asks her questions about how students make it work, “I had a family ask, “so what do you with students who are in wheelchairs?” and I had to say, “they don’t really come here. They see the campus is not as accessible as they need and the choose not to come here.”
So what happens with the students who need an accessible campus, but really want to come to SJU? Shouldn’t they get a chance to go to their dream college? This is why we are doing this project, to make us think about how “little” things like this really impact people and to get change started.