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Opinion: Brewer's Elevator, Disabled Icon

The Brewer residence hall elevator with yellow caution tape in front of it
Photo by Grayson Morris

Aug. 6, 2022, was the first time I received an email containing the phrase “Unfortunately, the Brewer/Faircloth elevator is currently not working.” As an incoming freshman who uses a wheelchair and had been assigned a dorm on the Faircloth residence hall’s first floor, this news was disheartening. However, the promise that it would be fixed over winter break at the latest bolstered my spirit. The email signature reassured me that Meredith was “Going Strong!,” and as I entered this new phase of my life surely I could as well.

But winter break came and went and still Brewer’s elevator remained closed for business. Luckily at this point I’d moved across campus to Stringfield, whose sister dorm of Vann features a luxurious functional elevator. I’d been expecting this elevator to be an ADA-compliant 51” deep and 61” wide, but the real size, 78” deep and 44” wide, made it immediately clear that this was an unreasonable expectation. With deceitful sizing like this, who needs cis-men on campus? At least the 32” wide entrance gives me unlimited opportunities to make Bella Hadid jokes as I scrape my 31” wide wheelchair through the door. Regardless, the Bella Hadid elevator still provides me access to the upper floors of my dorm when necessary. For my less fortunate peers who still live in Faircloth and Brewer, the continued inaction of Brewer’s elevator still poses significant access challenges.

The United States Social Security Office defines a disability as “an inability to do work or engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) that… is expected to last longer than a year or will result in death.” Brewer’s elevator definitely meets these requirements. But for students needing an elevator who don’t, accessing their dorms is a continued challenge. Lizzy King, a freshman student who resides on the third floor of Faircloth, shared with me that they are “developing knee pain (the onset of arthritis) and the stairs are constantly irritating [their] joints.” Because she hasn’t been diagnosed with a disability, she doesn’t qualify for accommodations via Disability Services, leaving her with no choice but to continually irritate her knees multiple times a day. They also shared that their grandparents enjoy visiting them at college but struggle to make it up and down the three flights of stairs necessary to do so. According to King, if a working elevator was available to her “it would help [her] combat joint pain and [she] could have [her] family not risk their health whenever they visit.”

While I have a sneaking suspicion our poor elevator is dead, for now all we can be sure of is that it is legally disabled. Until it can be officially declared deceased, I truly think Meredith should consider petitioning the US Social Security Office for Disability Income. Maybe we can use those meager government funds to hire staff that can carry students up and down the stairs while the elevator is experiencing physical hardships (or at the very least to “take action sooner because… elevator access is important,” as was promised in the Aug. 10 email sent to incoming students).

At this point the maroon “Going Strong!” insignia at the bottom of each email update comes across less as motivation and more like a microaggression. Brewer’s elevator is definitely handicapped, but (as I’ve been told by every elderly woman who approaches me in various Raleigh-area parking lots) that isn’t a bad thing! It just means that Brewer’s elevator is handicapable. Perhaps once it’s been freed from the confines of the archaic “handicapped” label and reassured of its true capabilities, it’ll once again raise our community to new heights (albeit at a miserable pace).

As it stands, the recent Feb. 27 email to students estimated that the necessary parts will finally arrive on March 10, 2023 and Facility Services estimates that repairs will begin shortly after that. Meredith’s Disability Services Department is aware of the issue and has been working since the elevator was first reported broken to get it fixed as quickly as possible. While they share students' frustrations, until the parts get in there’s not much more they can do about the situation. Students with a documented disability who face access barriers on campus are invited to reach out to Meredith’s Disability Services Office at or to request reasonable accommodations.

By Clary Taylor, News Editor

1 comment



and 6 months later it is down again...

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