Accessibility on campus is not that accessible
By Bridget Gum-Egan
On the way to class in the Fine Arts building one day, I went to look for the accessible button to open the door. Instead, I found a random long, white table completely blocking it and, even worse, blocking the automatic door from opening. Even if I had pushed the button, I wouldn’t have been able to open the door and get to my class. Thankfully, someone was walking by and helped me. Nevertheless, it illustrates a much larger issue than just potentially being late to a class.
While managing my disability on a physical and medical level is something I have always expected to experience, I did hope that my various challenges surrounding accessibility and equality would be easier or go away once I left my tiny farm town. That has not been the case.
I’m unsure if accessibility and equality are a societal issue or a Rider issue, but regardless, they are both significant problems at this university. Rider likes to brag about its diverse population, but what are they actually doing for these individuals? Everyone can have a diverse population, but can they serve that population appropriately? Do they genuinely want to help their students and be a support for the diverse population they so desperately cling to for these crucial public relations appearances? Do they simply give political answers with no real action behind their words unless their precious diversity image is publicly threatened?
Take the bathrooms on campus, for instance. A majority of the bathrooms labeled “women,” and I’m assuming “men,” are inaccessible. They usually don’t have big enough entryways to accommodate mobility devices. If they do, the doors are too heavy to open. Let’s say these issues aren’t in play, the stalls still aren’t always accessible for mobility devices, nor do the locks always work.
The solution Rider has provided: separate single-stall bathrooms specifically designed for accessibility. Sounds like a great solution, right? Well, unsurprisingly, Rider made a good situation worse by making the accessible bathrooms the designated gender-inclusive bathrooms, as well. Now, I’m not opposed to gender-inclusive bathrooms at all; in fact, I am fully in support of them and believe that they should be implemented in all spaces. However, the school shouldn’t be taking a resource from one group that needs it and giving it to another. Now there are two specialized groups using one significantly smaller resource.
That’s before we even consider the people who use these resources when they don’t need them. Or the fact that there are roughly one or two accessible/gender-inclusive bathrooms per building that are single-stall. Meanwhile, there is one stall for both men and women that have roughly four to five stalls that people can use. Take the Fine Arts building, which is where a majority of my classes are. There is one bathroom I can use in the whole building, so each time I need it, I have to go downstairs. This brings me to another issue: the elevators. For some reason, not all of the elevators are large enough to accommodate more than one person, abled or disabled. Not to mention how individuals who don’t need to use the elevator will, staff and students alike. Then, there are the accessible buttons not working or are being blocked.
These are just some of my issues, while everyone else with a disability on campus will have their own detailed list. Claiming that this is a complex issue about accessibility would be inaccurate. This is about being conscious of how your decisions impact others. To me, this is an issue with treating people like people and who we determine to be worthy in our society. What truly frustrates me isn’t the fact that accommodations take a while or that they’re complex; it’s that people don’t seem to care about these issues, make them a priority or even act like individuals with disabilities and their issues are on their radar.
When I struggle with issues like these, it makes me feel like I don’t matter and especially for the hefty price I pay for this school. Even without the money, I, as a human being, matter. I matter just as much as anyone else in this world and at this school. Start treating me like I matter and actually do something for me and my community that is helpful and meaningful, not just to cover yourselves because you’re being called out.