Students Speak Up About Wheelchair Accessibility On Campus
Meredith students have long been advocating for greater accessibility on campus. The Herald interviewed two students on campus who are wheelchair users to hear their perspectives on navigating campus.
When asked about how accessible Meredith College is, Rebecca Simmons, ‘23, stated that campus is not accessible “because the college’s failure to accommodate [her] disability both in the design of the campus and in the application of that design prevents [her] from experiencing it to the equal extent of [her] peers.” Emma Bailey, ‘22, echoed these thoughts and added that “many parts of Meredith are now accessible because [she] had to ask for them to be changed.”
Simmons went on to list examples of inaccessibility on campus such as the amphitheater, elevators that frequently break, desks in classrooms, the regular dysfunction of the door opening buttons, awkward placement of mailboxes and stairs leading up to the emergency blue light boxes on campus. Bailey also mentioned that a “common instance of inaccessibility is in the bathroom” where there is usually only one accessible stall if any. In her freshman dorm, Bailey “couldn’t roll [her] wheelchair under the sink, and the shower was a tub so [she] couldn’t roll [her] shower chair in it.” These issues were fixed before Bailey moved into her dorm since she toured campus early on and made note of them.
Though accessibility is an issue at Meredith, both Simmons and Bailey feel supported by Disability Services. Bailey said, “Anytime I’ve had an issue, my counselor has been on top of it.” Simmons said, “For easily remedied physical barriers, I think that Disability Services does a decent job of responding, but frankly…where I feel almost entirely unsupported is in navigating the ignorant attitudes and behaviors of professors who assign my grades.” She said that professors’ behaviors “could be remedied if the college made genuine efforts to educate their faculty and staff as well as [took] some responsibility in ensuring that professors understand and follow protocol rather than communicating to students that it is their responsibility to patiently remind their professors that they have civil rights, too.”
When asked about college improvements surrounding ableism, Simmons stated, “[Meredith] can take preventative rather than reactive measures to address inaccessibility by implementing new training for faculty and staff that spells out common misconceptions about disability” and other struggles people with disabilities face every day. Bailey added that “for a campus to be considered ‘accessible,’ every part of it that an able-bodied person uses, a disabled person should be able to use.” She also said she wishes Disability Services received more funding each year. The renovations to her freshman-year bathroom used the majority of the funds that Disability Services gets for one year.
A major tradition at Meredith is Cornhuskin’, which takes place in the McIver Amphitheater every year. The location for the main Cornhuskin’ event can make this tradition inaccessible to students in wheelchairs. Bailey said that specifically, “the brick ramp is extremely uneven and overgrown with roots that make it really hard to get down.” She continued, “Once you get to the seating, there’s nowhere for people in wheelchairs to sit. At Cornhuskin’, I had to sit off to the side and it was hard to talk to the people around me.” Bailey pointed out that the amphitheater is a “special place” on campus where many traditions and memories are made. “It’s a symbol of unity,” she explained. “Every student should be able to experience those special moments and feel comfortable while doing them.”
Simmons stated that “just because inaccessibility is normal at Meredith College does not mean that it is right or inevitable” and that the student body needs to “pay less attention to what [the administration] says and more attention to what they do.” Bailey hopes that “[she] can help make Meredith’s campus more accessible not just for [herself] but for future disabled students.”
For support with a disability or accommodations at Meredith College, reach out to email@example.com or call 919-760-8427.
By Freya Dahlgren, Staff Writer