COLUMN: Events are not accessible or sensory friendly on campus


Rob Le Cates

Ci Richardson is a psychology major and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Ci Richardson, Columnist

Remember feeling cabin fever and loneliness during the endless months of 2020? That’s what many disabled and/or neurodivergent folks feel all the time.

Events are not accessible or sensory friendly for these folks on campus.

In other articles this week, you’ll see how physical areas are inaccessible around campus.

One that isn’t discussed is when events happen in the middle of the grass. Some wheelchair users have gear to make it onto grass and dirt, but most do not.

If the ground is muddy or soft? That entirely goes out the window.

I can’t make it out into the middle of the quad and that’s where a lot of events happen.

For example, the poster sale is completely inaccessible for me. There is not enough space between the tables for me to navigate if I were able to go on the grass.

Outside events are not the only inaccessible events that happen. Events indoors can be inaccessible too.

Events held in buildings after the traditional hours do not necessarily have the accessible door unlocked and available for users who need them. Other times, the spaces are too packed for wheelchairs to get through.

I ran into this particular problem at Pantherpalooza the past two years as I was trying to set up my specific club’s table and had to have our row shifted over so that there was space for my wheelchair to make it through.

I understand that they try to pack as much fun into one space, but that is hard for me to navigate if I can even navigate it at all.

Moving along, there are other way that events are inaccessible especially to those with sensory sensitivity. Events are loud.

There’s not much you can do to get around people being loud, but loud music is especially an issue.

It is overstimulating having to try and focus on a conversation or task as you have music playing so loud your bones are vibrating.

Add that with events that have flashing lights? I can’t handle it. Sensory needs are different for every individual so I can’t write an all encompassing article on that without it being a novel, but sound and lights are two of the main sensory issues.

Lastly, event advertising is not accessible to some. Posters are often posted with text that is hard to read, does not have enough contrast between the text and the background, or they’re too overwhelming.

Oftentimes, the information that you need to see on the poster is too close together that folks with dyslexia can’t differentiate the text as well.

When information is posted online, we run into the same issues. Some organizations often do not provide alt-text or image descriptions.

Alt-text (alternative text) is text included that describes the content of the image and/or what it tries to convey. Alt-text is accessed separately if available and isn’t always accessible to some screen readers.

Image descriptions function in the same way except with more detail and is provided below or in the comments of the image. You often see this below an image in the newspaper, where alt-text is online and used for screen readers through code.

Blind, visually-impaired and folks with dyslexia may not be able to read when events are held or any additional information that may be needed for the event due to the things posted above.

Sometimes people with 20/20 vision have a hard time reading posters if the image is too compressed and there is not enough contrast between the font color and the background.

How is someone supposed to get to an event if they cannot read how to get there?

Keep this in mind when putting events on in the future or have an alternative to in person events if you cannot get around location barriers.

Ci Richardson is a senior psychology major. They can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.