Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Current Infrastructure Hinders Accessibility

Like many Georgetown students, Addie Joshua’s (SFS ’13) day is composed of a series of routines: a routine for waking up with the same daily tasks, a routine for getting to class on the same daily path, a routine for getting through days filled with the same daily obstacles and the same daily feats.

But for Joshua, who uses a wheelchair, and other Georgetown students with physical disabilities, those obstacles can complicate even the simplest daily routine.

Going to class can become a maze of cars and curbs when vehicles block the smooth sloping cuts that make sidewalks accessible. Opening doors becomes a chore when handicap buttons do not work properly, Joshua said.

When the snowstorm struck last February and shut down campus, Joshua was unable to leave her dormitory because the sidewalks had not been shoveled to accommodate her wheelchair.

“Georgetown is not a completely accessible campus,” Geraldine Miranda (SFS ’13) said. For Miranda, some regular errands like entering the Office of Student Financial Services in Healy Hall are difficult: The front entrance requires walking down stairs; the back door is typically locked and obstructed by a potted plant.

“I think it is essential for this office to be accessible,” she said. “If it were, then I would not try to avoid going there during the year as I have been doing.”

iranda, who also uses a wheelchair, and Joshua said parked cars block the entrance to classes in Maguire Hall; beverages inside of Leo’s and push buttons across campus are difficult to reach; and desks that must be turned around to be made usable are highly inconvenient.

Beth Goldberg (SFS ’12) was on crutches for five months at Georgetown last year after a leg injury. She said the layout of the Hilltop was a challenge in itself, one that could never be fully addressed. The closing of Tondorf Road for construction meant Goldberg had to use the steps along the Intercultural Center to reach the southwest corner of campus from her apartment in Henle Village.

“Getting around campus in a timely fashion was the greatest challenge because you have to wait for elevators or walk around an entire building with stairs,” Goldberg said.

University officials told THE HOYA that the school does its best to be accessible to students with physical disabilities.

“Georgetown takes accessibility issues very seriously and remains compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” university spokeswoman Julie Bataille said in an email.

Students with disabilities said they have received support from the university, but still more can be done to accommodate students in wheelchairs.

“They are doing their part,” said Nancy Oduro (NHS ’13), secretary of Diversability, a new student awareness group for people with disabilities. “They are really trying to make it so that anybody can come to this school.”

The Academic Resource Center has a division devoted exclusively to students with physical disabilities. Many of them turn to the center’s staff when they encounter problems, such as malfunctioning door-entry buttons and other questions of accessibility.

“We work with students [with disabilities] each semester to make sure that they have equal access to education in that semester,” said Katherine Ross, the center’s learning skills specialist who aids students with physical disabilities and chronic health conditions. “Our goal is to level the playing field.”

In terms of accessibility, however, “we definitely don’t do this job in isolation,” Ross said. Instead, the center’s principal responsibility is to guide students to the departments concerned with certain needs.

Ross said that students must be their own advocates in order to increase campus accessibility. “The administration is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it’s really up to the needs of the particular students who are here,” she said. “If students feel that there are things that aren’t in place that they believe are necessary for them to have access [to], then they need to be the ones to bring it to the attention of facilities management and other offices.”

Bataille said that accessibility for students with disabilities is also a primary concern as the university considers its 2010 Campus Plan.

“This issue is an important priority and is part of the review and design of all building projects on campus. If and when individual issues arise we address them carefully and thoughtfully to meet the needs of individuals on our campus consistent with federal law,” she said.

Students with physical disabilities also called for better education in the university community about the challenges that disabled students face.

“I think a lot of people don’t know about different disabilities,” Oduro said. “But more importantly, they want to know, they are willing to help out in any way they can, and they’re willing to learn more.”

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