August 19, 2018

Some students struggle with campus accessibility

By Sam Combest —

With the ever-evolving world of technology, those facing physical disabilities still find frustrations in the unavoidable problems with technology, such as automatic doors and elevators gettin stuck.

U of L Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, Brian Bigelow said tackling accessibility problems is a challenge.

“Many of the complaints or accessibility issues are a case-by-case situation. We try to create an individualized remedy to help the individual gain access to buildings or receive the proper assistance that they need,” Bigalow said.

Bigelow worked for the U.S Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for 15 years before coming to U of L. While there, Bigelow handled building accessibility and digital content accessibility complaints.

He said the biggest challenges in accommodating students are often old buildings and the lack of funding to retrofit them. While many buildings on campus have been retrofitted in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA of 1990

Bigelow also pointed out that while a building may be up to code the building might not be accessible for everyone.

Bigelow also said the ADA advisory committee is an area for expansion, in which he hopes can soon include students, faculty and staff of varying disabilities to provide a proper voice to the issue.

In response to a 2017 survey, Bigelow said the committee is drafting plans to modify the Health Sciences Library to be more accessible to those with physical disabilities.

The building has a sloped auditorium that hinders some with disabilities from accessing parts of the room.

Senior Samuel Krauss has a neuromuscular condition that requires him to use a power chair to navigate campus. He said he hasn’t had issues with university staff, just an occasional lack of physical accessibility.

He mentioned his first advising appointment at Gardiner Hall with the College of Arts and Science advising team.

“I had to have it in the courtyard because some of the offices aren’t accessible,” Krauss said.

Junior Jessica Drury suffered a spinal chord injury as a child, and has chronic pain. She uses a wheelchair to traverse campus.

Drury and Krauss both said U of L is one of the most accepting schools of their disabilities that they’ve visited.

Krauss said he thinks students could benefit from an assistance program where someone is scheduled to help a person with physical disabilities or possibly on call for emergencies.

U of L provides the following resources to students with disabilities:

Physical plant- Students can create a work order to handle physical environment issues, such as snow blocking and walkway or ice on a ramp, etc.

Disability Resource Center- The center advocates for disabled students and fosters an inclusive campus community.
Parking and Transportation- Anyone can report an unauthorized vehicle in a handicapped parking space, or an inaccessible loading zone.

Students can submit complaints anonymously or not through the office of the dean of students. Formal complaints can also be filed through Title IX/ADA Coordinator Brian Bigelow’s office.

Bigelow said he encourages students to meet with him to see if there may be a quick solution available to their problems. Students may also contact the US Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights to submit a formal complaint against the university.

Photo by Sam Combest / The Louisville Cardinal

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