On April 4, the Student Association Senate passed a resolution regarding accessibility issues on campus.
Sydney Alison, Associate Director on Graphics for the Cabinet, came before Senate expressing concerns about the accessibility of buildings on campus.
“I was not the first one to bring up accessibility issues on campus, but I do feel that if I haven’t kept voicing my concerns with the Student Association and TU administration, they wouldn’t have been taken care of,” Alison said.
Among the concerns Alison brought before campus were broken handicap-accessible buttons on doors, hard-to-reach buttons, broken elevators, elevators with inadequate space for wheelchair users and a few buildings that don’t have buttons or elevators at all.
Alison was prompted to bring her concerns to Senate when she encountered a bike left in the center of a ramp leading up to the Union.
“I thought, ‘how can someone be so inconsiderate?’ I realize that people don’t do things to be mean, they just don’t think,” she said.
“What made me decide to bring my concerns to Senate was the thought that there are so many students, faculty and others … that are on campus everyday who might have trouble getting around. No one at TU has time for inconveniences, and it’s completely unacceptable to be late to class, meetings or any other activity just because the school isn’t 100 percent accessible like it should be,” Alison explained.
Like most universities, TU is in compliance with requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides nondiscrimination protection in employment, public services and public accommodations (such as universities), for individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these establishments to provide “reasonable accommodations” so that those with disabilities can access and use public facilities.
Similarly, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against an otherwise qualified individual with a disability on the basis of that disability in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.
In the April 4 minutes, a senator brought up that “If there were any issues [with ADA compliance] it could mess with the Title IX funding and so it’s in TU’s best interest to look into these issues.”
Eric Ko, a commuter senator for SA and one of the authors of the resolution, agreed. “We would like to have a neutral third party come and assess whether the university is ADA-compliant,” he said.
“Existing students with disabilities do have a hard time getting around campus so we wish to address the issues of both legal matters and improvement of campus life. The resolution was written to improve the experiences of other students and there are laws in this country that help to support students with disabilities,” he concluded.
According to the April 4 minutes, SA compiled a report of issues with various buildings on campus in order to present it to the administration and request changes be made as soon as possible. Alison said that most of the requests from Senate focused on small things like maintenance on doors and elevators on campus.
Alison hopes that the resolution will lead the TU community to be more conscious and considerate of those with disabilities who use campus every day.
“Accessibility is important for TU and any college campus … the last thing we’d want is for a student to choose not to come here because they don’t think they can get around or have any independence,” she said.
Ko also mentioned that accessibility is “an important part of the Diversity Action Plan for the university. People in disability should also be included in the diversity, and this resolution will help to shine some light on the issues of accommodating people with disabilities. We hope to have the university promote universal design to help them.”
Alison finished by emphasizing “I love The University of Tulsa, and the issues I’ve encountered with accessibility have in no way dulled my love for this school. I’ve met the most amazing people who are always willing to lend a helping hand. Every school has things that could be improved on, accessibility for all students is one for TU.”
Ko said that more information about a future plan for the accessibility resolution will be available following the Senate meeting on Tuesday, April 18.