Location, buildings lead to accessibility issues on campus


Photo credit/ Jennifer Flynn

Despite meeting ADA requirements, some on campus feel it could go further.

According to Director of Student Disability Services Kaitlin Anderle, roughly 11% of Marywood students have a disability that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite that, exceptional accessibility on campus remains a constant struggle to meet.

Technically speaking, Marywood does generally meet what is legally required under the ADA, which includes both physical accessibility and digital accessibility in the form of Brightspace and Zoom. There are a few areas that need improvement to be fully compliant.

Anderle cited the lack of a curb cut in the sidewalk near Loughran Hall and the inconsistent Braille in buildings as two upcoming projects on campus. In terms of digital accessibility, events are one major area for updating. The use of closed captioning, transcription and an interpreter at events would be the benchmark to meet, according to Anderle.

Some buildings, like Regina Hall and the Woodlands, can be retrofitted to be accessible for those with physical disabilities. Accessible parking spaces have also been moved for dorm accessibility. However, Anderle says more can be done to accommodate disabilities on campus.

“The ADA should not be the ceiling, it should be the floor, it should be the bare minimum of what we do to be a campus that is accessible. Going beyond that would be consistent with the values of Marywood,” said Anderle.

Matthew Kelly, accessibility representative for the Student Government Association (SGA), echoed Anderle’s sentiments.

“Marywood is abiding by all the laws set forth but we’re barely treading water when we should be above the treeline,” said Kelly.

Kelly highlighted the physical accessibility of not only the buildings on campus, but the methods of getting around campus. What hurts Marywood’s ability to be exceptionally accessible is the location. Built on a set of steep hills in former anthracite country, physical accessibility is an uphill battle.

The commuter lot behind the Nazareth Student Center has no accessible parking spots due to the location. Anyone in a manual wheelchair could not easily access the building from that lot. There are accessible spots directly behind and in front of the building to accommodate for that.
In the winter weather, untreated ice can make these “accessible” spots totally useless. According to Anderle, maintenance and grounds does keep up with salting those spots, but sometimes only after a complaint has been raised.

Another blind spot in accessibility at the Nazareth Student Center is the second floor, where the commuter lounge and Chartwells offices are located. The only way to access either of these is by taking two flights of stairs. Despite an elevator that connects the main floor of the student center to the dining hall, no such accessibility exists for the upper level.

“For a student center, it’s not very student centered. Maria Hall also has no accessible access to the second floor, where the University Advancement and Development Offices are located,” said Kelly.

Another hurdle in complete accessibility for Marywood is money. Funding for renovations, and additional staff in the student disability services office were two core issues in making progress, according to Anderle.

Progress in accessibility is an issue that has been raised by students as well. A recent petition created by Marywood student Elizabeth Roy gained popularity on social media, garnering 218 signatures.

Roy listed several ADA compliance issues involved with the Learning Commons, specifically related to parking. The Learning Commons does not have designated handicap parking spaces, and the nearest spaces at Conway Circle do not have curb cutouts for wheelchair accessibility. The petition cites Marywood’s values as talking points for creating more accessible spaces near the Learning Commons.

“The lack of accessible parking for this building sends a clear message that all students are not valued equally at Marywood and contradicts the core values that Marywood has identified,” wrote Roy in the conclusion of the petition.

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