Editorial: Going for the gold in accessibility

In June 2014, Rider will be one of just three New Jersey colleges hosting the Special Olympics USA National Games. While the event is more than three years away, it’s not too early to start preparing for the impending rush of athletes and family members coming to the Lawrenceville campus.
For every June of the past decade, Rider has housed Special Olympics athletes without being an actual host of the games. This is set to change in 2014, when Rider will become one of the venues where the competitions take place. For the games, the university will continue to have participants in its residence halls. To properly accommodate those who come to the campus, athletes and family members included, Rider should ensure that the buildings are totally accessible to people with disabilities.
In the summer of 2014, approximately 3,500 athletes will come to the Mercer County area to compete in 14 Olympic-type sports and activities. On top of that, more than 80,000 people, including coaches, volunteers and spectators, are expected to arrive. A large number of them will need housing for the nine days of competition, and they will be on Rider’s campus. But most of the residence halls don’t scream “handicap accessible.”
One look at the housing on campus will show that they are not the easiest to enter. The front doors of many of the residence halls are difficult to get through. Many of the buildings don’t have handicap doors, which open when a button is pressed and then remain open for a person to get through. Most of the doors to residence halls need to be pulled and held open to get through. Also, with the exception of West Village and New Building, no residence hall has an elevator. This means that if any physically handicapped students live in those buildings, they are restricted to the first floor. Students on crutches or in a wheelchair can’t go up a flight or two of steps to get to their rooms.
It’s not fair for the Special Olympics athletes that live here over the summer to have limited space, even though all 3,500 competitors will not be on Rider’s campus; they will be spread out among several other schools. Also, what about the Rider students who are here full time? It’s not fair that they are forced to live on the first floor of any building because of a disability. We realize that to put elevators in all of the already established residence halls is a costly, time-consuming task that requires a lot of planning, but it is time to start addressing the problem.
If Special Olympics athletes will be living here, they will also be eating here. Daly’s has a handicap door and a ramp to use as well as steps, making it easier to enter than the residence halls. But inside the building, the university could bring back lunch trays for those who need them. Rider used to have trays, but got rid of them in order to help go green. Since that’s not convenient for everyone, trays would definitely be more helpful.
Rider isn’t totally off-limits to disabled students. The Academic Annex, where the Services for Students with Disabilities office is located, features braille on its entrance as well as a regular sign. The office works with students to get more time on exams and other academic requirements and the Student Escort is able to drive students to classes when necessary.
Overall, the Lawrenceville campus is easy to navigate and most buildings have handicap accessible doors and ramps. But some areas most needed by students and Special Olympics athletes could use some work. Taking part in a great event like the Special Olympics is incredible, and the university should make sure everyone enjoys his or her time here, in every way possible.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.

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