Does our campus welcome those with physical disabilities?
By Kate McFeaters | Contributor
At Taylor University, we claim to value community. But does our campus welcome and accommodate people with physical disabilities? Back in September, I was in a car accident that left me wheelchair-bound for three months while the bones in both my legs healed. I lived at home for most of this time but had the opportunity to travel to campus while still in my wheelchair, using a walker for shorter distances. At the start of the spring semester, I returned to campus full time but still walked with a pronounced limp and used a cane. While I was only physically disabled for a short time, it opened my eyes to the world of someone who uses a wheelchair for much or all of their lives.
The Taylor campus is large and spread out, which is great for afternoon frisbee golf games or hammocking between trees but not for someone with a physical disability. Most days, even thinking about walking from my room to the DC was too much to consider. I had to drive everywhere, even if the buildings were relatively close together. Once inside, I often had to go out of my way to find an elevator. In the Campus Center, the elevator was helpful if I wanted to attend chapel, but what if I needed to access the Counseling Center or the Spencer Center for Global Engagement? For these trips, the elevator was extremely inconvenient.
Another hurdle I faced while disabled on campus was finding food. I didn’t want to eat at the DC because the elevator there is glass and very loud, causing many students to nickname it the “elevator of shame.” But the Campus Center isn’t much better. The Campus Center parking lot is convenient for someone who wants to visit the Taylor Police office, but using my walker to hobble from the handicapped parking spots to get dinner exhausted me. Even having reserved parking near the doors didn’t help when I didn’t have enough energy to get back to my car.
Many of the dorms do have elevators. I’m very thankful that, when my accident occurred, I lived in Wolgemuth. Before this year, however, I lived in Third English, in a building without an elevator. If my accident had happened while I lived there, I would’ve had to change rooms, floors and roommates while adjusting to a new semester and to my physical limitations. When I lived on campus in December, I couldn’t visit my friends in English because I had no way to reach my old floor without hopping up three flights of stairs.
Taylor’s campus does follow the laws and regulations for public facilities when making accommodations for people with physical disabilities. But having my own movement restricted because of my accident opened my eyes to the limitations on campus. I attended Taylor for two years prior to this accident and took my carefree mobility for granted. Now I realize our campus is not easy to navigate for people with physically limiting disabilities. If we’re really the intentional community that we claim to be, we should accommodate everyone, not just the majority.