For students with motor impairments or disabilities, getting around some residence halls might not be so easy.
While 18 of 22 residence halls on-campus are handicap accessible, four are not, having been constructed under older building codes that did not require Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility.
After the ADA passed legislation in the 1980s, Central Michigan University had to retrofit buildings to fit its standards. Barnes, Robinson, Calkins and Trout residence halls were unable to be addressed due to space restraints.
“The law doesn’t require us to make every building accessible…if you can’t, then you don’t have to,” said Executive Director of Campus Life Shaun Holtgreive.
While adding accessibility ramps, guidelines must be met to keep the grade of the incline at an acceptable level. For Robinson Hall, the ramp would have extended into the street. Similar problems arise in other buildings, constructed without foresight to allow for handicap accessibility.
Student Disability Services performed a summer accessibility audit, noticing several problems.
“We found some interesting things,” Director of Student Disability Services Susie Rood said. “The Towers are accessible, but not intuitive. It’s very intertwined and there is no signage saying where handicapped access is.”
Rood said SDS works close with students to go over housing options. She said the university does not recommend students with mobility issues live in the Towers, as getting over the railroad tracks outside of Kulhavi can present difficulties.
There are several other areas on-campus without wheelchair ramps, as well. Access to the first floor of Wheeler Hall and to the basement of Cobb Hall is only accessible by steps.
This is a problem for students with disabilities who wish to live there and for those who wish to visit friends in these halls.
Coleman junior Dakota Burch has a visual impairment and has experienced problems navigating through the Towers residential halls.
“Overall, its nice,” Burch said. “The halls aren’t small and skinny, but also not too big so that you don’t know where you are. However, there are no ramps for getting into a few of the halls, and that does not make sense. I feel for those who are in a wheelchair.”
Overall, there are 729 students with disabilities at CMU, accounting for around 2.6 percent of total enrollment, including Global Campus.
CMU is working to remove some of these problems.
Larzelere Hall was recently altered to accommodate a wheelchair-bound student to allow closer access to classes. Holtgreive said disabled students have also been able to live in the hall, which is usually reserved for honors students, for increased accessibility.
“One of the things that I think concerns all the visually impaired students, including myself, is the safety of crossing the streets,” Burch said. “It can be dangerous for all of us and has nothing to do with mobility. Drivers don’t always have the best idea for when to go.”