Students consider accessibility of campus buildings
Haleigh Ehmsen | Thursday, April 21, 2016
Benjamin Bowman, director of facilities, said all buildings on Saint Mary’s campus are handicap and wheelchair accessible.
The College, which was founded in 1844, by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, has several historic buildings, including Le Mans Hall and Holy Cross Hall.
“With buildings dating back to 1903, meeting today’s ADA standards are an ongoing challenge,” Bowman said. “Current ADA standards are designed into all new construction and major building renovations.”
Senior Bridget Dedelow has cerebral palsy and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that provides her with academic accommodations, but in terms of housing, she said she has done room selection with all the rest of the student body.
Her first year at Saint Mary’s, Dedelow said she was in a room in McCandless Hall with a full bathroom. She now lives in LeMans Hall and said the Office of Residence Life and Community Standards has been helpful, but she doesn’t get special privileges.
“I chose Saint Mary’s because of the campus size, but it was one of the schools I didn’t visit.”
When Dedelow went on visits at state schools, she said those campus were difficult to navigate. Despite Saint Mary’s small campus, Dedelow said there are ways Saint Mary’s could improve the experience of a student with a physical disability. While handicapped parking spots are available near the Cushwa-Leighton Library, these spots are not for student use. Dedelow said she received a ticket when she parked outside of the library.
South Bend’s winter weather also creates challenges for students with disabilities on Saint Mary’s campus, Dedelow said.
“I can pretty much maneuver on my own, it’s more like getting around campus, especially in the winter,” she said. “Even though I have adequate balance, the slippery sidewalks can be difficult.”
Dedelow said she thinks it’s important for there to be more open dialogue about disability on the College campus.
“I wish I would have advocated more for disability services and support, physically and mentally,” she said. “Sometime you just need to talk to someone because you’re tired of being of disabled. It’s odd to say, but … it takes a mental and physical toll on your body.”
Angela Athletic Facility and Wellness Center, scheduled to open fall 2017, will be more accessible for students and visitors in wheelchairs, Bowman said.
“The new Angela building will meet all current ADA codes,” Bowman said. “There will be ramps at both the north and south entrances. Within the building, there will be an elevator and proper restroom facilities to accommodate ADA needs.”
Bowman said the College continues to budget capital dollars toward site improvements for accommodating ADA requirements related to sidewalks and roadways.