This past April, two students, Catherine Urban and Genevieve Bernier, had both been temporarily physically disabled and navigated the Geneseo campus on crutches for an extended period of time. During that time, Urban and Bernier had many difficulties getting around campus, but noticed that for some of these problems, there could be simple solutions if the school were to take action.
The two of them set up several meetings with campus officials regarding the issue, and even produced their own campus accessibility map to show physically disabled students and campus visitors which entrances of which buildings are accessible.
Along with the efforts of several members of Students Educating About Ableism and numerous faculty and administration members of the school - most notably the School of Education's professor Linda Ware - Urban and Bernier were able to set up a campus accessibility tour and panel discussion with the Rochester Center for Disability Rights' Director of Advocacy Chris Hildebrandt.
The panel explained that there are several factors that currently make it near impossible for a physically disabled student at Geneseo to have a positive learning experience. That being said, several possibilities that were brought up that day have not reappeared in the news since. Granted, with all of the SUNY budget cuts, it is a very difficult time for the school financially. Despite that, there are several cost-effective solutions that can make our campus a safer place for both the temporarily and permanently physically disabled.
Currently, a student who uses crutches is expected to travel up the steep hills of our campus to attend classes, meetings and whatever other activities they need to get to. With the winter season approaching, this becomes nearly impossible for disabled students because of the snow and ice. Seeing that the school employs several work-study students, why not have a few of them help students who need assistance getting to their classes? This would not cost the school any additional money, and could prevent a student from injuring themselves worse and potentially suing the school.
Because of the campus' hilly topography, it would be nearly impossible to make it completely accessible for everyone with a physical disability; but there are several small steps that the school could be doing to make things easier for the physically disabled. If there is one thing that I hope changes about Geneseo in future years, it's that students will continue to fight for the cause that Urban and Bernier fought for while they were students here and work with the school's administration to make Geneseo a safer campus for the physically disabled.
I feel that handicap accessibility is one of the most important issues that I have covered in my two years working for The Lamron. Personally, it pains me that my paralyzed father has never been able to see most of the campus because it is too difficult for him to navigate. On a more important note, what does the school say when a student with a permanent physical disability wants to attend Geneseo? I hope that at some point enough changes will be made so that physically disabled students will be able to list Geneseo as one of their possible college choices.
Sean Kaplan is a senior political science major who is a valued e-board member, great friend and crazy-insane Mets fan. He will be sorely missed.