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Students voice concerns over campus accessibility

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As the University at Albany replaces heavy, narrow doors on academic buildings to make the campus more wheelchair accessible, several Student Association senators raised concerns that the campus is inaccessible in other ways.

One concern: automatic door openers.

When second year psychology major Amanda Ferguson encounters a door whose button doesn’t work, she has to navigate her wheelchair through the entrance a different way.

“It’s not too often but there have been times,” said Ferguson. “Maybe once every few months.”

Carolyn Malloch, director of UAlbany’s Disability Resource Center, said that though all of the academic buildings’ entrances are planned to be replaced with wider gold doors, funding limits some upgrades.

“As much as I would like to say that every single door needs to have an operator, we don’t have the money for that,” said Malloch. “And it’s not required. We’re required to have at least one accessible entrance per building.”

Student Association senators Chloe Blaise and Sean Correia have been vocal about several other accessibility issues campus.

Blaise pointed out that low-rise complexes have no elevators, making the second and third floors inaccessible.

Though the Disability Resource Center can work with students with mobility issues to house them in more accessible housing like Freedom Apartments, Malloch said that getting to different parts of campus can take a long time for those in wheelchairs.

“It’s difficult if you want to live in Colonial tower and you want to go visit a friend in Dutch,” said Malloch. “There’s no easy way to do it because you have to go through parking lots to do it in order not to go down a steep hill.”

Senator Correia drew attention to the fact that several wheelchair-accessible routes on campus are not clearly marked.

“The handicap accessible routes we do have on this campus, for the most part, are not direct paths,” said Correia. “Students that need to use them often have to walk just as much or go really out of their way to get to the elevators.”

To get to the Lecture Centers from the podium, persons in wheelchairs can take two main routes.

The first involves taking an elevator in Arts and Sciences to the basement before navigating through a hallway to a ramp that leads to the Lecture Centers.

Students can also take an elevator in the Performing Arts Center to then make their way through the lower level and take another elevator to the LCs.

Ferguson said that she understands how students in wheelchairs considering UAlbany might see the campus as tough to get around.

“Yeah, I think they definitely would have a harder time, like somebody who didn’t go beforehand to take a tour,” she said.

Mike Nolan, university communications specialist, said that the university is planning to put up signs marking accessible routes, and that they hope to have online maps of the routes up by this summer.

Assistant Director of the Disability Resource Center Carrie Snyder said most of the students they work with have invisible disabilities, not mobility issues.

Only three of the 670 students registered with the DRC use a wheelchair or other mobility device, though Malloch said she knows of others in wheelchairs who simply haven’t registered with the office.

Senator Blaise said she was not too optimistic about SA’s ability to effect changes to the university’s accessibility.

“I can sit here and bring these issues, but at the end of the day if administration doesn’t want to make the change, it doesn’t matter what Juju says, what Langie says,” said Blaise, referring to SA president Jerlisa Fontaine and President-elect Langie Cadesca.

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Joe Hoffman is the managing editor for the Albany Student Press.

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