Campus needs wheelchair access
I did not expect to be writing this article from first-hand experience, let me tell you that right off. I had been planning on writing a well-intentioned and most likely ineffective opinion piece regarding wheelchair access and Earlham's lack thereof, trying to make myself feel like a compassionate and involved person ...
The article would have started off with something along the lines of, "Have any of y'all noticed that we have no students in wheelchairs?" I hope that I am still a compassionate and involved person, but the game just got more personal. I am now a student in a wheelchair.
This is a temporary condition, of course. I fell, breaking my ankle and spraining my wrist, the day before classes started. I am already healing, and may even be out and about, chair-free, by the time the semester's first edition of The Word is published. I know that my perspective, therefore, is one of a person who is generally able-bodied. Nonetheless, I have gained an unusual (for here) perspective on the issue of access.
If I were a permanently wheelchair-bound student, I would not consider Earlham for more than a minute. My first visit would have been enough to convince me to apply elsewhere.
Yes, most of the campus is accessible, but only nominally. That is, you can get to many places, but it's quite inconvenient, particularly when it rains. My first day in a wheelchair, it rained. Lots. I mean, the umbrella I had as I was being ferried to my classes really didn't do all that much good.
And let's see ... I am on the 19-meal plan, which means I have breakfast in Saga. Great. My first class is in Runyan! But to get to it, I must exit Runyan Center and get wheeled to the back entrance by the circular driveway. This is because there are stairs between Saga and the Fine Arts department. Instead of budgeting two minutes to get from one place to the other, I need to remember to set aside 10.
Not to mention trying to check my mail. There is indeed a wheelchair entrance to the basement of Runyan Center. More than once I have found it locked. The ramp to the other basement entrance is, like many ramps on campus, at an incline of frightening degree-that is, I am afraid I will fall out of my chair and/or roll too fast and slam into the doors. And thank God that I am a music student, because if I had an applied art class upstairs in Runyan, I'd be out of luck.
Same with class in Tyler Hall. Every entrance involves stairs. I have been informed by various faculty members that if I had a class there, the class would be moved. But this would make majoring in social sciences a little problematic. I mean, there are few rooms on campus that can accommodate as many people as Tyler 100.
If I were a psych major taking Human Development or Social Relations, the class would have to be moved to either the Hancock Room or Dennis 110. If I were taking both in the same semester, it would probably mean displacing some...