Campus accessibility issues magnified by winter weather

Campus accessibility is an ongoing item of discussion in Geneseo, especially during winter months when snow and ice pose serious risks to those with permanent and temporary physical impairments.

Linda Ware, professor of disability studies in the School of Education and adviser of student group Students Educating About Ableism, has been working to address concerns related to accessibility on campus since 2006. One of her main concerns is the danger faced by those using crutches on campus.

"What you have … are students who opt not to use their crutches," she said, noting that because crutches are difficult to use in the first place, some students abandon them when snow and ice cover the ground. "All they're doing is really prolonging their injuries," Ware said.

In the 2007-2008 Personal Safety Committee Report, Ware and students involved in SEAA proposed that Global Electric Motors cars, designated for garbage transport, could drive physically impaired students around campus on an as-needed basis. Students also proposed that non-slip mats be placed on ramps on indoor pathways in order to prevent students from falling in snowy and rainy months when people are tracking slush into the buildings. Although non-slip mats have since been placed in buildings across campus, the GEM car transportation suggestion has yet to be put into effect. Additionally, SEAA members noted that several ramps in South Hall still lack carpeting and can get slippery.

"Part of what we have on campus is this reluctance to recognize that bodies come in all sizes and shapes and needs and they're not all Adonis … They're not all perfect bodies," Ware said. "It's not about ramps, it's about looking at … individual needs that the university collectively wants to respond to. It's always about individual needs."

Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, assistant dean of disability services, works with permanently and temporarily disabled students to develop plans for traversing the campus safely.

"We do have a shuttle on campus that makes regular runs around the campus," Buggie-Hunt said. "I ask the students if they know about the bus … I tell them that I'm very happy to sit down with them and discuss how to read the schedule … and how to work with it with their classes if necessary."

In addition to working with individual students, Buggie-Hunt and the Office of Disability Services work with Facilities Services to ensure that pathways are cleared in times of snowy weather.

"If [physically impaired students] have a certain pathway that they follow … I'm very happy to work with them and work with Facilities Services to make sure those pathways are cleared first," she said. "If a student finds an area that has not been cleared or that is slick … they can report it to me … and I will report it to Facilities Services … and somebody will get there as quickly as possible to take care of the situation."

Not everyone is satisfied with the current cleanup efforts. "Once [facilities workers] put the salt down, it seems like they think that the problem is solved," said sophomore Olivia Derella, a member of SEAA. "For students without mobility issues, and especially for ones with them, the ice doesn't melt and it's really dangerous. They don't seem very quick about responding to it."