Disabled students find Western’s Hill accessible

Published: March 6, 2007  |  Source: media.www.wkuherald.com
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59253h4xRob Scott has to get up the Hill, hunt for a parking spot and get to class on time.

The Bowling Green sophomore does all his daily tasks from his wheelchair.

Scott sustained a spinal cord injury while serving in the Army in 1998, and he uses a wheelchair to get around campus.

He faces challenges when dealing with construction around campus, and sometimes has trouble finding a place to park.

But Scott said his difficulties at Western aren’t very different from those of other students.

“It’s pretty much the same as everybody else,” he said. “The Hill. Parking and the Hill.”

Scott is a Social Work major who hopes to work as a parole officer or at a Rehabilitation center for spinal cord injuries.

He enjoys working on cars and playing wheelchair rugby.

Matt Davis, coordinator of Student Disability Services, said students who use wheelchairs can succeed at Western.

Davis said there’s an accessible shuttle that runs the campus loop and goes to South Campus.

Students are often apprehensive about coming to Western because of the way the campus is architecturally designed and because it’s built on a hill, Davis said.

“The biggest challenge is getting students who use wheelchairs to come visit,” he said.

Davis takes prospective students on a campus tour to show them the most accessible routes.

Davis said he gets across campus efficiently in his wheelchair.

One difficulty that the campus faces is making sure that construction doesn’t impede the routes used by students with disabilities, Davis said.

Scott said Western does a good job of keeping sidewalks clear and accessible, but parking could be improved.

Construction has made parking more difficult for Scott, who said he once encountered handicapped parking spots that were obstructed with construction equipment.

“I called Matt Davis, looking for handicapped parking places, and he told me about the ones near Tate Page,” Scott said “I went over there, and there was all this equipment sitting right in front of the spots. A big dumpster right in the middle of it, too.”

Scott said he has twice forgotten his handicapped parking permit and received tickets for parking in handicapped spaces, although he had a disabled veteran’s license plate on his car.

Western tries to make facilities accessible to all students, said Doug Ault, director of planning, construction and design.

Renovated buildings must also meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards, Ault said.

ADA requirements include federal guidelines for making buildings accessible for people with disabilities.

“All new construction must comply completely with ADA, so when we build a new building, like MMTH (Mass Media and Technology Hall), the design architect is required to completely meet all the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Ault said.

It’s usually a design architect’s responsibility to ensure that construction plans meet ADA requirements, he said.

The facilities management department also works with the Student Disability Services to review facilities and ensure their accessibility, Ault said.

“In existing buildings, we have challenges with the Hill,” Ault said. “Although we make efforts to make accommodations, we sometimes have problems. We try to work with disability services to address all students’ needs.”

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Rob Scott