Imagine this-coming back to campus and finding that the Quad at the center of campus has been considerably raised off the ground and an 11-step staircase was put there, making your mornings getting to class and your whole life on campus that much harder, combined with the fact that the routes that would make your life easier-those without stairs-are difficult to find without the proper signage. Or imagine walking out of O’Neill Library to go to your evening journalism class to find that the rain water from the daytime has completely frozen and has now combined with the snow to make it literally impossible to get to class without the help of extremely kind strangers, who hold onto you the entire way because walking in these conditions with your crutches that have rubber tips makes you feel like Bambi on ice. How would you feel? These are the challenges faced every day at Boston College by the students that have physical disabilities.
While other minorities on campus, whether they be ethnic minorities or those of sexual orientation, have groups, such as AHANA and Spectrum, that legitimize their issues, the students with physical disabilities do not have such a group and, as a result, their problems are most of the time forgotten or even worse, pushed under the rug. As a student with a physical disability-cerebral palsy that forces me to walk with crutches-I have complained about the lack of adequate snow removal three times this semester because, whenever it snows, all of the walkways are never properly cleared, such that there is always a thin layer of snow, slush or ice left, making it completely unsafe for students with balance issues, which is common among people with physical disabilities. When I complained, I was simply told that the reason why the snow was not properly removed was because they could not predict the snow and if it would stick, despite them having the same weather report that every other person has. This sentiment enrages me. Newsflash-we’re in Boston! If it snows, it sticks! Similarly, the Disabilities Service Office said that the only solution to these problems is getting up earlier and using the provided Eagle Escort van. While the van is a helpful service, it can help only so much, as once you arrive on campus, you must maneuver around it and that is made difficult by the lack of adequate snow removal.
Another thing that similarly flabbergasts me is the fact that many of the handicapped accessible routes are around the back of buildings or are further away than the regular routes. This always astonished me, that not only at BC but everywhere, because how about using some common sense and putting the routes for the people who can’t walk closer to the actual building? It flabbergasts me. A similarly shocking thing to me, is when there are accessible routes, often they are not open. Last year the accessible entrance to McElroy was not open past 7 p.m. This prevented me from getting dinner many times. Likewise, the accessible route to Bapst library is always closed and the security rarely wants to open the door. So, you must call the BC police, which normally takes an hour.
I assure you, this is not just my problem. I was asked by the Disability Services Office to talk to a handicapped prospective student, who wanted to know how accessible the campus was and how good the snow removal was. I had no choice but to tell her the truth-that both were often handled more than poorly. If they were to be given a grade, it would be a D, at best. The University’s lack of concern about these things will prevent very smart and capable students from coming here just because of their physical capabilities.
The mission of the Disability Services Office says, “that students with disabilities [will] receive support services and accommodations that permit equal access to all Boston College programs and the opportunity to realize their potential and develop effective self-advocacy skills.” I just wish they would stick to that.