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How accessible is Taylor?

Students with disabilities find a voice at Taylor

Alyssa Roat | Echo

Last spring, junior Megan Burkhart was half-carried down the stairs of her dorm to a waiting ambulance. Why?

English Hall has no elevator, and EMTs couldn’t reach her with a stretcher.

Samantha Hurst (’18) invited her sister who uses a wheelchair to Taylor. She got stuck on the second floors of buildings when elevators didn’t work properly, and Hurst noted that these were just the buildings that had elevators.

Junior Tim Pietz recalled utilizing his “hopping skills” while on crutches to reach his room on the second floor of Swallow Robin Hall, which also has no elevator.

Junior Caroline Vaporis, an aspiring special education teacher, related the struggles of inviting young students with disabilities to campus. Her class was unable to bring children into the dorms, since no one in the class lived in a dorm with an elevator.

One of Taylor’s accommodations for students with disabilities.

One of Taylor’s accommodations for students.

On a given day at Taylor, it’s likely at least one student will be on crutches, using a scooter or otherwise hindered in mobility. Yet, obstacles for those with disabilities still abound.

“We believe there are adequate accessible places for students,” Residence Life Director Scott Barrett said. “Most buildings have some rooms or spaces that are handicap accessible. As we build new buildings or renovate old ones we are required to make sure a certain amount of the rooms are accessible.”

Coordinator of Academic Support Ken Taylor is working with students to make Taylor as accessible as possible. He pointed out several ways Taylor has been assisting. Taylor police will drive students to class if needed, and students can get a handicap sticker for their cars. University maintenance workers regularly check to make sure handicap push plates are working. Taylor is always willing to work with students to create plans and stated that Lori Slater in housing is quick to help injured students move from upper floors to the first floor of a dorm.

Although Taylor has some options, and people like Taylor and Slater are doing much to help, I believe much more can be done.

As a student who has both been on crutches and suffered a condition that continues to hinder my mobility, I can vouch that living at Taylor can be difficult. I could move to another dorm, but I would have to leave behind wingmates I’ve lived with for years and integrate into a new community. Residence Life would be happy to assist, but should students really have to choose?

“We would love for every room on campus to be fully accessible. Right now that is just not the case. To modify any of our current spaces requires resources that right now we just don’t have,” Barrett said.

According to a study by senior Molly Fletchall, the average elevator purchase and installation costs about $20,000. Though three on-campus dorms have elevators, the other five do not. The cost to install elevators in these would total about $100,000.

This may seem like a lot. However, yearly tuition at Taylor is over $40,000. In only two and a half years, just one student pays more than enough for five elevators. When considering student health and the possibility of welcoming more students with disabilities to campus, this doesn’t seem as hefty a price to pay.

Vaporis pointed out the first thing prospective students see is the admissions building, Helena — the front entrance of which is a staircase. Why should individuals with disabilities have to go around the back?

What about residence halls where the first set of doors has an automatic door opener — but the second doesn’t?

In the meantime, there’s one thing we can all do that costs nothing. If you don’t need to use an automatic door opener, don’t. Pushing the buttons makes the batteries die, leaving those who need them with a dead button that doesn’t work.

In the end, Taylor advised, “If you see another student struggling, open the door. You don’t need to go to the other side of the world to minister. Minister to each other.”

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