Western not meeting needs of disabled students

Brian Moore

Tom was sitting right next to the button. All he had to do was push it and the two doors in front of him would automatically swing open.

Tom’s blue T-shirt was dotted by soft rain beginning to fall outside of Grise Hall. He waited patiently.

A construction crew in the distance pounded away at a sidewalk about to be repaved. The smokers had already retreated to class.

“Can you get the door?” Tom asked in a stern voice, not usually the tone of someone wanting a favor. It wasn’t the first time he has asked the question. He’s asked it hundreds of times. He usually says “please,” but he was particularly frustrated on this day.

He’s already seen three sidewalks in repair this morning. The new pavement is supposed to help Tom move around in his wheelchair easier.

The sidewalks aren’t the problem, he said, glancing outside at that blue, square button on the wall.

All he had to do was push it. Then the two doors in front of him would have swung open.

But Tom can’t push that button. His arms won’t allow him.

“Doesn’t make much sense, does it?” he said.

No, sir, it doesn’t. Because what happens to students, like Tom, who can’t push those buttons?

They end up out in the cold, outside in the rain. They sit there waiting for the next person to walk by. They’re upset. They’re late for class.

There have been nice changes on our campus in the last three years. Those changes make folks proud. The ones that haven’t been made make folks ashamed. Graduates should be disgusted as they leave campus, knowing that physically handicapped people still face deplorable conditions here everyday.

So Western says the school is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Who gives a flying bulldozer? If the ADA doesn’t help Tom get into this building, it isn’t doing any good.

Doors are one of the major concerns here. Grise Hall’s front doors are pathetic. Garrett Center’s doors are wretched. So are the ones in Thompson Complex, Gordon Wilson, Potter Hall, Downing University Center, Cherry Hall and every other building.

We’re using a $1 million federal grant to repair sidewalks. Tom doesn’t have to wait for help in the middle of a sidewalk. He waits for help at the door.

Western’s ADA Compliance Office has a hideous definition of accessibility. Automatic doors that slide open at the trigger of a motion sensor must be put in our buildings. Put them in academic buildings across campus. Put them in DUC.

Don’t say you don’t have the money. Nobody buys it.

Including Tom.

Brian Moore is a senior print journalism major from Louisville.