COLUMN: Accessibility matters, especially on campus tours

Rob Le Cates

Katja Benz is a senior English major and can be reached at 581-2912 or [email protected].

Katja Benz, Columnist

So, I gave a tour to a student last week. This student utilized a wheelchair and needed help accessing certain parts of campus.  

For example, the student needed to get into the first floor of the union, which they could only access by elevator.  

It was the same way with Stevenson when I took the student in there. They had to go down the ramp by the dining hall and up the elevator with me.  

Lantz Arena was similar. We had to go out the way we came and go around the building to make sure that the student saw everything they wanted or needed to see.  

While I loved showing the student around campus, I could see how frustrated they were that they could not get around as fast as the other students that they saw.  

I especially felt bad because I wanted to help them, despite knowing that they felt out of place.  

In that moment, I realized this student should not have to feel frustrated that they cannot get around campus as fast as the other students.  

More importantly, I realized that campus should be more accommodating of students with needs beyond the neurotypical student.  

After I gave this student a tour, I was thinking about how frustrated they were getting about how they could not get around.  

While I know campus is inaccessible, especially for students in power chairs, wheelchairs or on crutches, I did not realize it until that very moment.  

My dream job is to help disabled students transition to both college and the adult world.  

They have extra obstacles that most neurotypical students do not have to think about when choosing a college or what they want to have as a career.  

Before I continue, I would like to mention that I am in no way attempting to blame anybody or point fingers at the lack of resources for these students.  

I just hope that we close the gap on what these students might need.  

The student on the tour has a major in a building that I thought did not have an elevator. Until I realized that it actually does have an elevator. 

The problem is that it would take the student so long to get to class that it becomes tedious and the student would have to extort more effort to physically go to class than is worth extorting for an hour and fifteen-minute class twice a week.  

I know that this student felt welcomed on campus, because they said they did after the tour, but I wonder what would happen if that feeling did not stick? 

I know exactly what that feels like, not feeling welcome, and I would not want this student to feel that as well.  

Which is why it is my goal to make sure other students do not feel like I have. 

Katja Benz is a senior English major. She can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.