Mobility on campus
Mobility, accessibility, adapting: Three words that you probably do not think about very often. But there are many of us who have to think about that every day of our lives because we have physical limitations that provide challenges.
In general, UVU is fairly accessible. The accessibility services office helps a lot with that, as well as all the buildings being connected. Classrooms typically have space and a desk for a wheelchair. There are automatic door buttons, which are often slow, but at least they usually work.
There is one aspect of mobility that those of us with physical challenges have been silently frustrated about. Elevators are provided, yet when needed they are not readily available.
First off, this is not a rant saying that the disabled deserve better treatment than others or anything like that. In fact, I’m all for equality. At the same time, there comes a point where what some people need trumps other’s desires.
As someone born with Muscular Dystrophy, I have spent my entire life adapting situations to work with my leg braces and crutches that I use as a result of my weak muscles. At this point, I have figured out how to do just about everything that you “able-bodied” people can do.
Now, I can take the stairs. Though if you saw me taking the stairs on campus you would probably wonder why I was taking that route. However, there are times that I think it would be faster to take the stairs since the elevators are overused.
On Spring 2013, I conducted a survey about elevator use on campus. Out of the 79 responses I received, 85 percent said they did not have a medical need to use the elevator but still use it.
From the other 15 percent that do need to use the elevator, 6 reported that they have been unable to get on the elevator because there were too many people who appeared to be able-bodied.
While in my wheelchair, I let those who were in front of me get on the elevator first. Before I had the chance to get on, others walked past me and I had to wait five minutes for the elevator to come back.
I understand that accessibility and convenience are not the same thing. Often wheelchair accessible routes are long and out of the way, or some elevators you have to hunt for. Those of us with disabilities are used to this. But when many of us are late to class because we had to wait for the elevator to make a round trip, stopping at every floor, the lack of accessibility becomes a hindrance.
Granted, not everyone who appears to be perfectly capable of taking the stairs is actually able to do so. There are medical issues that we cannot see such as severe asthma, knee problems, etc.
If you were in our position, you probably would not like it if someone said, “oh sorry!” when the elevator was full of people who appeared able to take the stairs.
We deal with inconveniences all the time, just like you do. Take parking as an example. We have to pay the same amount for a parking pass as you do. Even with handicap placards, people who got there earlier often take those spots.
Construction can be a pain for everyone. Before the work on the new health and wellness building began, like many people I would cut through the parking lot to walk to the Liberal Arts building. Now, it takes 10 minutes longer going through all the buildings.
Aimee Vargas, a sophomore who uses a wheelchair for spina bifida, parks in the free lot. Now that the construction for the new classroom building has begun, it makes getting to and from her car quite a challenge.
My research study shows the majority of those without a medical need to take the elevator typically wait zero to three minutes. On the other hand, those who do have a need said they usually wait four to six minutes.
I believe that if more people chose to take the stairs rather than wait, the time for those who do not have that choice would be cut down. Take the example of Ayla Cavanaugh, a junior studying Behavioral Science who does not have a disability, who immediately takes the stairs if she sees a long wait at the elevator.
I’m not asking for everyone who doesn’t need the elevator to stop using it. I get that going up three flights of stairs is quite a feat. I’m just asking for people to think twice before taking the elevator at every chance they get, or at least during the busy times.
Generally, the student body is willing to help the disabled out when we need it. Michael Gray, a freshman who uses an electric wheelchair for Cerebral Palsy, said that someone often opens the doors for him before he even needs to push the button.
If this one little issue with the elevators were resolved, then things would be just a little easier for us.