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Walter hall by Hocking River on the south side of campus Feb. 26, 2024.

Students call for improvements to campus accessibility

Throughout the academic year, students have noticed the need for improvements to campus accessibility. Whether it is the absence of elevators in residence halls or the small number of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant rooms, students would like to see changes made to Ohio University’s campus. 

OU offers accessibility services to students with physical and mental disabilities. 

“The mission of Accessibility Services is to ensure equal opportunity and access for members of the Ohio University community,” according to the Accessibility Services page. “Central to this mission is the development of an academic environment that is accessible to all people without the need for adaptation. While working toward the goal of full inclusion, accommodations must still be provided on an individual basis.”

Alyssa Dumbra, a senior studying environmental biology, started utilizing Accessibility Services when she moved on campus. Her disability made it difficult to climb Jefferson Hill and Morton Hill. 

“I thought SAS (Student Accessibility Services) was really helpful for me when they got the accommodations for a service called Cat Cab,” said Dumbra. “They transport students with permanent and temporary physical disabilities.”

The Cat Cab is just one service that Dumbra has found useful. However, Dumbra has also faced challenges with ADA housing on campus. She was at first able to live on the first floor of her building to meet her accommodations but then was told she had to move the next year to an ADA room. 

“They basically said, ‘Hey, if you are living here again, you have to live in an ADA single,’” said Dumbra. “One thing about ADA singles is they are usually on the second, third or fourth floors for most buildings.”

Crystal Hill, the assistant dean of accessibility and ADA/504 Coordinator, said students can request first-floor rooms as needed. 

“As we discuss the accommodation approvals with housing, we will go toward your barrier-related accommodation needs,” said Hill. “That may leave out preference. There might be a preferred residence hall or preferred roommate that I cannot consider.”

Lauren Staigers, a sophomore studying sociology criminology, Spanish and women’s gender and sexuality studies, wants to see students give more input on what they would like to see from the university. 

“All of that relies upon administrators,” said Staigers. “I know administrators are really busy, but they should take the time out of the day to get to know the individuals.”

Staigers has also noticed issues with the elevators being down frequently in certain residence halls. These elevators are crucial for some students with disabilities to be able to get where they need to go. 

Rees Morris, a sophomore studying political science pre-law, offers a solution to this issue.

Morris is currently serving as the Senator of Accessibility and Accommodation in Student Senate, a seat he created himself to act as a voice for students with disabilities who do not have a lot of representation. He plans to discuss ways to make the campus more accessible with university administrators. 

Morris and Megan Handle, the president of Student Senate, had the idea to come up with a system similar to the IT email notifications students get. They want there to be accessibility notifications where students can be informed of when an elevator or escalator is down on campus and when it will be fixed. 

“I lived in Boyd my first year, and (the elevators) were out all the time,” Morris said. “I actually had a meeting with the head of accessibility services here, and she was talking about how that's one of the issues that they are dealing with right now.”

Morris also said he has plans to meet with Housing and Residence Life about allowing service dogs training through the Four Paws program to stay in the rooms with their caretakers. 

“Other universities allow it,” said Morris. “(Four Paws) brought this issue to light at one of our general body meetings where they presented to us. Then, I got some of their contact information, and I have been working on that.”

Accessibility Services has a few ongoing projects to improve accessibility on campus. These projects include improvements to residence halls, new residence halls and updates to academic buildings. Accessibility considerations are already implemented into these projects. 

“There are these standards called the 2010 Standards of Accessible Design,” said Hill. “People with knowledge of that are at the table or at least can reference those things. As these newer projects are complete, there is no retrofitting to ‘Hey, now let's make this accessible.’ It’s already ingrained in that.”


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