Edinboro students call for accessibility to take priority

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Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021 at 7:28 PM
Edinboro students call for accessibility to take priority by Cassandra Gripp
File photo

The fall 2021 semester finally marked the return of all students to campus. On-campus housing was opened at full capacity, in-person classes were made available, and sports stadiums opened their doors to the public again. However, shortly before the school year began, students were informed that the Baron-Forness Library — a resource many students rely on for a quiet place to study and to better their careers — will be closed for renovations. 

These renovations have caused unrest amongst the student body, especially those with accessibility concerns. While the library receives renovations, our sidewalks and crosswalks remain problematic for wheelchair-bound individuals and able-bodied people alike. Depending on what time of year classes are happening, some passages across campus become almost entirely inaccessible. 

Viktor White, a current senior, mentioned some hazardous areas around campus when the weather gets bad: “We’ve had some pretty significant snowfalls and the area around the art buildings gets very tricky to navigate. There are many differences in the grades of the land, like potholes or sidewalks that turn into drop offs. That area can become a problem, especially if you’re in a heavier chair.” 

Another troublesome area that comes to mind is the sidewalk that runs between Van Houten Dining Hall and the Frank G. Pogue Student Center. It is a narrow, highly trafficked area that wheelchair-bound students have to weave through to get down safely. When classes are letting out, this area becomes almost impossible to cross without risking tipping forward and harming themselves.  

Even the crosswalks between Van Houten Dining Hall and the Frank G. Pogue Student Center become dangerous as wheelchairs get stuck on the risen cement and cars whip through the area. I have gotten my own wheels lodged there more than once and had to prevent myself from rolling into oncoming traffic.  

As the university struggles for funding and begins their merging process with Clarion and California University of Pennsylvania, more and more services face the chopping board. The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) has suffered in the past, most noticeably during the cut of the attendant care program in fall of 2019. Beginning last year, most transportation services were no longer available to students with accessibility concerns, limiting their experiences on campus. Sarah Getzler, another senior, claimed, “I don’t have transportation anymore, only once a week to my internship.” 

Getzler later stated that when the weather got too snowy, there were times she had to Zoom into her classes or not attend at all because the campus was uncrossable. White added to this, and said, “they (Edinboro University) need to put more emphasis on students’ safety and less of an emphasis on looking good.” 

Even for students without accessibility concerns, the sidewalks and crosswalks can prove dangerous. Avi Rettman, a junior, recounted dislocating his shoulder while skateboarding across campus in his freshman year: “I’ve seen a lot more people on skateboards this year and the sidewalks just suck really. You don’t know if you’ll be able to use the ramps or some sidewalks because they always have those dips and bumps and if you hit the road wrong, you can hurt yourself. I had to stop going over some of those areas because you just can’t use wheels on them.” 

While it isn’t a bad thing that helpful renovations are being made on buildings like the Baron-Forness Library, something needs to be done about our exterior infrastructure. There is too much of a risk and our students’ safety must be taken into consideration moving forward.

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