Many Millersville students can walk to their classroom and sit down with ease, not worrying about the journey it took to get there. For some, however, some reconfiguration is needed. Perhaps tables or chairs need to be moved, or maybe even a different accommodation is given.
For people who have various needs of accessibility, something as simple as deciding where to sit can lead to an inconvenience.
It begs the question: is Millersville truly accessible?
Lindsay Saienni, a sophomore majoring in Early Childhood Education and Special Education, feels very passionately about these types of questions. Just a few weeks ago, she presented a lesson plan at Made in Millersville which chronicled a five-day teaching method for teaching children about accessibility.
Saienni grew passionate after participating in an internship while in high school; she gained real-world experience teaching alongside a life skills teacher, and she immediately knew that she wanted to include this in her teaching plan for the future.
“I want to be as prepared as possible … why is this not in my degree?” Saienni asked herself. Since then, she has prided herself on being an advocate for those with disabilities of any kind. She expanded this passion even more after coming to Millersville.
“We have an inclusive program on campus, which is awesome,” Saienni said, mentioning the Integrated Studies program, which takes students with disabilities and integrates them into classes that any other student would be taking.
“There are definitely some improvements that we should make, and as a really awesome university we should always be striving to make improvements,” Saienni said. She mentioned that one great thing on campus was the inclusion of professors who could serve as representations for students of any kind.
“Even having a professor who has a disability is awesome,” Saienni said. “Education isn’t just survival of the fittest.”
Although there is representation on campus to a certain degree, Saienni said she thinks a lot could be done about the structural accessibility of the campus.
“Out of a 1 to 5, I’d give it a 2.5 or a 3,” Saienni said. More specifically, she mentioned an issue that arose when one of her professors, Theotis Braddy, was unable to get into his classroom due to the weight of the door.
To be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a door must weigh five pounds or less. The classroom which Braddy was given was armed with a door that weighed around 15 pounds. When Saienni mentioned something about this to those in the building in question, she said she was met with a lot of unfavorable responses.
Eventually, the door was lightened to 11 pounds, which was reportedly the lowest the university could go, as it’s a fire escape door. “It almost turns you away from being an advocate,” Saienni said. The experience with this alone was enough to make her more passionate about the topic, she said.
“And if that was the fight for one door, could you imagine if we did that to an entire building?” Saienni asked.
Doors appear to be an integral part to accessibility.
Jay Bair, a junior philosophy major, relies on alternative means of transportation to get around campus. Though he uses a wheelchair, he does not cite too many forms of inaccessibility on campus. However, any issues that come up typically revolve around doors or walkways, he said.
The button outside of the Student Memorial Center reportedly doesn’t work due to someone punching it. Additionally, buildings like Hash prove to be difficult to traverse. “Hash is interesting… some of the buttons don’t work,” Bair said. “It’s complicated.”
Saienni also had an experience with a friend who had a new need for accessibility after getting a knee injury that left her unable to climb steps. Areas in buildings, such as the Upper Deck, have proven to be somewhat difficult to traverse, depending on the person.
“Socially, it doesn’t go with the flow of the campus,” Saienni said, speaking of the winding path of the eatery. It was recently renovated, but it has inconvenient factors to it that make it harder for those with disabilities.
While some buildings are older and less accommodating, some of the newer buildings have many features that ensure an easy commute for those with accessibility needs. Bair said that McComsey was an easy building to maneuver; Saienni said that the library was another accessible building.
One issue Saienni cites is a lack of knowledge about the issues that those with disabilities and accessibility needs may face.
“Accessibility has so many factors,” Saienni said. She then said that she finds movements such as the one with domestic violence on campus interesting, as they say volumes and promote awareness. In the future, she said she hopes to possibly do something similar.
Millersville has been making recent strides to ensure a more inclusive space for all; accessibility seems to be a work in progress that will be improving sometime in the future. Until then, people may find creative routes around campus.