It took me, a Westhampton College senior who suffered a serious knee injury this spring that has severely limited my mobility, almost four years to realize how inaccessible University of Richmond’s campus is to disabled people. After spring break, I came back to campus using crutches for about two weeks and I will be wearing a straight leg brace for six weeks to ensure that I don't bend my leg. If I’m lucky, I move at about 50 percent of my normal pace. This experience is giving me a sense of what it would be like to be permanently disabled, and I can tell you, it has not been a pleasant one on our campus.
Richmond did not provide me with any form of transportation to more easily navigate our sizable, undulating campus. Instead, Richmond's Disability Office directed me to a private company unaffiliated with the university where I could either rent a golf cart for $750 or limp around our spacious campus for the semester. I chose to rent the cart, but what would happen to a student who could not afford that added cost? Our campus does not have a daily campus shuttle, so students are left to their own devices when it comes to transportation within campus grounds. This lack of assistance from Richmond is unacceptable at best and potentially illegal at worst.
Even with a golf cart, I am significantly disadvantaged, thanks in part to strict guidelines regarding my golf cart. Campus police told me that I could not ride on the grass and I could not block walkways, so the only “legal” way for me to get to the Richmond College side of campus, where all of my classes are located, is through the Tyler Haynes Commons or via a large grouping of steps that lead down to the lake, neither of which are golf cart friendly. Thus, I am limited to riding only on the roads within our campus, where cars regularly exceed the speed limit and pass me when they are frustrated with being stuck behind a golf cart with a maximum speed of 14 mph.
Finally, many of our buildings have very limited accessibility. I live in the Gateway apartments, which were built just two years ago and have limited handicap accessibility. Each building has elevator access in only one tower of the building, which means that eight apartments at most within each building can actually make use of this elevator. Unfortunately, my apartment does not have elevator access. I have to climb 20 steps to get to my second-floor apartment. Does this design even legally comply with ADA regulations?
There are many things that Richmond can do to make life easier for people with physical disabilities. First, Richmond should pay for wheelchairs or golf carts for physically disabled students. Second, our campus needs to make substantial renovations to the campus infrastructure to create a safer, more inclusive space for physically disabled people.
Students: Do you want your tuition dollars spent to create a campus for some or a campus for all?
Contact opinion writer Marin Kobb at firstname.lastname@example.org
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