Student continues push for accessibility on campus

Richardson says Eastern’s campus does not fit ‘golden standard’ of accessibility

Ci+Richardson%2C+a+senior+music+education+major%2C+wheels+down+the+Stevenson+Tower+ramp+while+slowing+themself+down+by+holding+onto+the+railings+on+Thursday%2C+June+9.

Rob Le Cates

Ci Richardson, a senior music education major, wheels down the Stevenson Tower ramp while slowing themself down by holding onto the railings on Thursday, June 9.

Cam'ron Hardy, Campus Events Junior Editor

Ci Richardson, a senior psychology major, has chronic pains in their body and asthma. Due to this, they are unable to walk long distances due to the pain in their legs.   

Richardson must use a wheelchair to move around campus, but it is challenging for them.   

“The sidewalks are awful,” Richardson said. “Not every building has a push to open button… Some of the ramps are older and they are steeper of an incline…There’s still places where I can’t fit through some of the doors, and I have the standard size wheelchair.”  

Eastern’s accessibility for disabled students has made it challenging for Richardson to navigate their way around the campus.   

Richardson said that their options came down to Illinois State University and Eastern but chose Eastern because ISU had more things to improve on.   

There are still a lot of things that Eastern must fix, according to Richardson. And there are some areas where Eastern is getting better, but it still has some ways to go as far as making campus completely accessible.   

Richardson said of the doors are difficult to access, such as room 1550 in the Doudna Fine Arts Center, which Richardson describes as, “a bomb shelter door.”  

Lecture halls also cause a problem for Richardson because there are not many places for them to sit.   

The Thomas Hall entrance next to the dining hall does not have accessible door operators. (Ashanti Thomas)

Buzzard Hall is also an inaccessible building for some because it has push-to-open buttons for one door but not another, Richardson must navigate around that issue. Richardson said the front of the classroom is the only place to sit in classes at Buzzard, which is OK for them, but for other disabled students, it may cause a problem.   

Richardson said they had to “argue” with the Office of Student Disability Services on some topics about what should/should not be an accommodation. 

Richardson does not have the accommodation of their own desk because they need to have it written down by a doctor that they need to have a wheelchair accessible desk. They presumed that they would not need accommodation since they use a wheelchair.   

According to Richardson, accessibility at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is better than Eastern, but it is still the bare minimum.   

“Some of the things [I see] when I go there, I’m like ‘Oh this is amazing. I’ve never experienced this anywhere else,’” Richardson said. “But that should just be the bare minimum standard.”  

Richardson is a member of an accessibility panel and is working with Eastern to fix some of the accessibility issues on campus, including the fixation of the ramp at Stevenson. Richardson said there have also been other resolved inaccessibility issues on campus, including some of the sidewalks getting holes filled.   

The entrance leading to Buzzard Hall has huge cracks and many rocks on the ramp, deeming dangerous and inaccessible for wheelchair users. (ASHANTI THOMAS)

Anne Flaherty, the vice president of student affairs, is a member of the council. She participated in some of the conversations this past summer pertaining to the accessibility on campus.  

She also talked about what the council is doing to improve how accessible the campus is.  

“Several of the physical improvements are under review with [the Facilities Planning and Management department] to get estimates for repairs/modifications, and the feasibility of repairs based on cost estimates,” Flaherty said.  

Flaherty said the group will regroup once they get more information.   

“I just want to see this campus get better,” Richardson said. “Not for me, but for my other friends that are disabled that I know that are freshman. And there’s going to be disabled people coming here for the rest of the time this university is open. With it being more accessible for people to go to college, with everything now, there will be more people that should have the opportunity [to] have an accessible space.”   

 

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]