Last fall, I realized that Georgetown University critically needs to become more accessible for students with mobility disabilities such as athletic injuries and other temporary or permanent disabilities. After months of research, I decided to create HoyaLift, a new Georgetown transportation service that will circulate Americans with Disabilities Act accessible shuttles around campus to help students get to class on time.
If Georgetown truly wants to be an accessible campus, from Car Barn to St. Mary’s Hall to the McDonough School of Business, it needs HoyaLift.
Any student can experience a mobility disability during their time at Georgetown. A friend of mine this year began using a mobility scooter due to an injury, delaying her commute. She struggled on her steep route to campus from her 35th street off-campus housing. The frequent hills and stairs were obvious mobility barriers to her receiving her education, especially as a senior living off campus. She explained that this painful obstacle and distraction from academics has proven to be the greatest challenge she has faced at Georgetown.
Another friend of mine, a club athlete, began using crutches after injuring his ankle playing basketball. He told me that his daily walk to the MSB from LXR Hall has taken him over 40 minutes on crutches.
My friends’ experiences inspired me to investigate the issue of accessibility on campus to see if there was any assistance for students with mobility disabilities or if I could do anything to help. I thought I had seen students being driven in golf carts; however, after more than two years as a Blue and Gray tour guide promoting cura personalis, I was not convinced Georgetown had enough services for the disability community on campus.
After emailing and meeting with faculty, campus leaders and administrators, I realized the university offers little physical support for mobility disabilities. Student Health Services provides access to mobility devices, such as crutches and mobility scooters, but no actual transportation. The Academic Resource Center accommodates students academically by allowing excused tardiness. The university operates the Mini-Shuttle Bus Service with ADA-accessible shuttles for patients and staff between McDonough Arena and the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital; however, this program does not serve university students.
Similarly, while the SafeRides shuttle service for students operates around Georgetown neighborhoods, it only runs for a few hours each night starting at 8 p.m. SafeRides has limited movement on campus because of its vehicles and affects campus pedestrian traffic. This service cannot — and is not intended to — meet the daily needs of students with mobility disabilities.
Georgetown needs a service like HoyaLift to specifically help students with mobility disabilities travel around campus. HoyaLift shuttles will operate from Monday through Friday during classes, rather than just at night. The map of our loop includes stops at 36th Street/LXR, Yates/McDonough School of Business, O’Donovan Hall, the bottom of Leavey Center and St. Mary’s Hall.
According to a survey I conducted with the Georgetown University Student Association and the Georgetown University Disability Alliance, 91% of students agreed there are not enough services available for disabled students at Georgetown and that we need a transportation program like HoyaLift. Students clearly recognize the need for change on Georgetown’s campus to make the university more accessible for all its current and future students. Therefore, our goal is to launch a pilot program this spring and to hopefully have a permanent program by fall 2020. The university is currently finalizing HoyaLift’s budget and deciding how it will fund the shuttle and drivers needed to support the program.
HoyaLift’s program can immensely benefit Georgetown’s diverse student population. Members of the Georgetown community should actively advocate for HoyaLift to the university administration, and the administration should prioritize its facilitation of this project. Georgetown’s campus is difficult for those with mobility disabilities to navigate, but with a strong backing from students, faculty, staff and alumni, we can implement HoyaLift to make campus more accessible for all Hoyas.
Olivia Silveri is a junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.