Unacceptable Accessibility


I have been in a wheelchair for around 15 years and have come across many obstacles in everyday life, like a building having stairs but no elevator, sidewalks too rough to navigate, lack of handicap accessible restrooms and many buildings not up to code set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA came into effect 30 years ago, and businesses are just starting to abide by it. 

Over the years, places have changed for the better when it comes to making things handicap accessible. However, many businesses don’t take care of the “little” changes thinking it will not affect anyone. When in reality, that “little” thing you skipped over is actually a major thing for people with disabilities. For example, the ramp to a business is too steep, but the owner thinks that people in wheelchairs are not going to their business, so they don’t need to fix it. Honestly, they are hurting themselves in the long run.

When I toured Piedmont, it was one of the most accessible schools I had been to. The buildings were easy to get around, the campus was very accessible and everyone offered to help me when I needed it. Piedmont Disability Services kept in touch with me and as time went on they let me know that they installed door openers, showed me the best bathrooms to use and even got a wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus. 

Although, now that I have been here for a few weeks I have noticed a few things that are concerning not just for me, but for anyone who is in a wheelchair. The first thing I noticed is about personal safety when getting around campus. When leaving the Commons and heading to Daniel or Stewart Hall, there is a shortage of sidewalk accessibility. At the end of Laurel Avenue, near the art studio, you have to cross Massachusetts Boulevard to get to the other side of the sidewalk. Crossing the road is not the issue, it is that there are stairs on the opposite side to access the sidewalk. This problem forces me to go around a deep blind curve, that also has no sidewalk, and wrap around to Chapel Alley in order to get to the halls. 

Another issue is the footbridge that crosses over the wetlands. I would love to be able to simply cross over it to get to the Swanson Center, but the end of the bridge has steps leading up to Swanson. This is obviously a problem for me, but it could also be a problem for someone who might have broken or sprained their foot. The bridge is a beautiful area, but if there is nowhere for me to go at the end, I am never going to enjoy it.

Overall, Piedmont’s campus is a very beautiful campus where accessibility is better than other places. However, like most things in life, it can definitely be improved. 

The main issues that need to be resolved are for personal safety and convenience. After 30 years, there is not a reason for wheelchair users to be stuck with the inconvenience of having to get in and out of vehicles when we could enjoy campus like everyone else instead. 

We should have equal opportunity to freely navigate campus without the threat of being late, or even injured heading to class. When these issues get resolved I think not only wheelchair users, but everyone will be happy to see a safer and more convenient campus.