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Blog: Challenges and inaccessibility students with disabilities face in a school setting

By Angela Gormley

I’ve been given a sampling platter of accommodations by my university, some which are helpful, some which are completely useless. But the one accommodation that I need more than anything else is the one that I can’t get. As an ambulatory wheelchair user, I switch between walking and rolling depending on various factors. My campus is not particularly accessible and has lots of hills, historic buildings without elevators, and aesthetically pleasing cobblestone that is the wheelchair equivalent of airplane turbulence. This prevents me from taking my wheelchair to certain classes either due to complete inaccessibility or extreme inconvenience.

I have a state-issued disabled parking placard, and for a while I would park in the accessible spots on campus and have my wheelchair in the trunk ready for me if I needed it. Then I got a ticket. I thought it was a mistake, but a few days later I got another. I soon learned that if I wanted to park in accessible parking I would need to buy the nearly $1,000 a year student parking pass. For almost two months I wasn’t able to use my wheelchair at all, and my health and grades suffered. I emailed everyone in administration I could, and the issue went up to the level of two vice chancellors who said nothing could be done. Apparently, this wasn’t an issue to the school because I could always call the school’s accessible van to get from my university apartment to campus. That doesn’t work when you’re an ambulatory wheelchair user on an inaccessible campus. My car is a safe place on campus where I can store my wheelchair, keep extra medical supplies, and seek thermal refuge since I can’t regulate my own temperature.

I’m not the only one in this boat. I have friends both at my school and at others who are stuck putting themselves in danger because they cannot park in accessible parking without paying a ridiculous fee. We already pay up to $70,000 a year just to exist on inaccessible campuses and they won’t give us this resource we need without paying an exorbitant price. The most useful accommodation schools should consider is honoring disabled parking placards.

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