A tweet claiming the SIUE campus is not easily accessible for students with physical disabilities recently brought awareness to the issue.
On Dec. 3, 2019, Sydni Rubio, a teaching assistant studying for a master’s in biology, from Troy, Illinois, tweeted how the difficulty she experienced moving around campus made her feel “beyond discouraged” to go to class every day. Rubio has had two reconstructive ankle surgeries over the past year and has been temporarily incapacitated for about three months. She said the challenges she experienced in getting around prompted her to post the tweet.
Rubio has found Dunham Hall in particular to be difficult to navigate.
“Trying to get around Dunham Hall is a nightmare,” Rubio said. “I’m a T.A., so I had to go there for lecturers or proctor exams, and it’s a maze trying to get there. The ramps are in inconvenient places, [and] the ramps are really steep … It’s really hard to find handicapped entrances and once you do find them, they’re really out of the way, especially in Dunham.”
Rubio also said handicapped bathrooms in Peck Hall are hard to access.
“They have handicapped bathrooms off in a completely different area and they’re not very well-labeled … I went into the regular women’s bathroom and there’s no handicapped stalls in there,” Rubio said.
Rubio said some of the handicapped door openers are placed in inconvenient places, such as inside the doors, making it challenging to get around.
“Some of the buildings, they’re in nice spots, but in [Science West] you have to go behind the door to push it” Rubio said. “I have to hurry up and quickly not get hit by the door.”
SIUE’s Twitter account replied to Rubio’s tweet and recommended that she reach out to marketing specialist Ashley Chitwood. However, Rubio said she has not done so because she has only faced these problems for a limited time, while those with disabilities always experience them.
“I feel like I don’t have much of a right to speak out because I’m temporarily disabled,” Rubio said.
Chitwood said administration would have been better able to address such issues if Rubio had reached out.
“We could put them in touch with people on campus who can help make alterations or make changes, whether that be ACCESS or additional SIUE administrators, that ultimately we can put them in contact with people who ultimately make those decisions,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood said the university tries to respond quickly when a student voices a complaint.
“How things have a social teamwork here at the university is if we see something, a student or someone in our community addresses some sort of concern or is hoping to have something remedied, we just like to respond as soon as possible … that helps us identify essentially what the need is and how we may be able to assist,” Chitwood said.
Craig Holan, director of Facilities Management, said SIUE takes measurements to ensure the campus is accessible for all students.
“The campus is fully ADA accessible. We meet all the criteria as designed for that, and in many cases we go above and beyond,” Holan said.
Holan cited multiple examples of how the university exceeds ADA guidelines.
“We’re not actually required necessarily to provide accessibility between buildings, but of course we want to do that. That was one of the routes that we just recently did as part of that several million-dollar project,” Holan said. “So we provide wide sidewalks that meet the required grades, and in many cases we provide more than one route.”
According to Holan, other examples include accessible parking, as well as handicapped bathrooms and door openers in each building.
“We have accessible parking throughout the entire campus, included in each of the lots, and we have accessible bathrooms in each of the buildings,” Holan said. “Additionally, we have door openers, many times on multiple doors in the building, so we’re really only required to do that at one location.”
Rubio said the campus should be more inclusive going forward, and said they should keep people with disabilities in mind when constructing new projects.
“Disabled students shouldn’t have to ask for the basic rights that everybody else gets,” said Rubio. “I guess for future reference, if they’re going to rebuild or do reconstruction for anything, think about [people with disabilities].”
Students can direct related concerns to ACCESS at 618-650-3726 or email@example.com.