Student brings attention to campus accessibility concerns

"It is important to consider those with disabilities when designing a new building on campus or renovating an old one." (Photo by Markus Spiske)

Kyla Slaughter, a senior social work major, met with Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development, over winter break to discuss different ways to improve on-campus accessibility for people with disabilities. Slaughter, who was born blind, brought up several changes that Southern could make to accommodate blind individuals, specifically. 

“I’ve been talking about making buildings more tactilely accessible to the blind, like making sure all the plaques for room numbers and restrooms have braille on them so that I can figure out which classroom I need to go to, or find the bathroom in the building,” Slaughter said in an interview with the Accent. 

Slaughter said it is important to consider those with disabilities when designing a new building on campus or renovating an old one. 

“Think it through before you build,” Slaughter said. “It might be a great design aesthetically, … be mindful that a disabled person is going to have to use these buildings or grounds.” 

Slaughter said having elevators in most buildings on campus helps make those buildings more accessible to those in wheelchairs, and adding automatic doors or door-opening buttons like those at the Bietz Center for Student Life would be another helpful improvement. 

From her experience navigating campus grounds with Cherish, her guide dog, she has been able to identify several areas where accessibility could be improved, said Slaughter. She suggested adding beeps to the pedestrian crosswalk buttons so they can be located by sound, as well as having them play a sound when it is safe to cross. 

As for walking around the promenade,  Slaughter said she has noticed  some unsafe places to walk on that upper part.

“[There are] places where the sidewalk is right next to the edge,” she said “ … It would be nice to maybe put some railings along those areas so that we could eliminate that risk.” 

Slaughter added that the end of the promenade near Brock Hall could use something to indicate what direction someone is walking.

According to Slaughter, accessibility within classrooms is improving, and professors have helped by providing audio descriptions of their slide presentations. However, she said, courses with physical-only books are less accessible and suggested that audio versions could be made available as a resource. 

Slaughter said that changes continue to be made to improve accessibility and mentioned that navigating courses online was made easier by eclass 4.0.

“ … Looking at it from an academic point [of view], I love the new eClass,” Slaughter said. “It’s a lot less clunky to navigate, and it’s definitely more streamlined, so it makes it easier and faster to navigate from class to class.” 

Marty Hamilton, Associate Vice President for Financial Administration, wrote in an email to the Accent that braille signage has been discussed by Southern’s administration, but he did not know of any definitive plan to add braille signage. He also mentioned that all buildings had been looked at for automatic door openers, but no further recommendations had been made. 

According to Hamilton, making campus more accessible is difficult because Southern is located on a hillside and has a variety of different terrains.

“The good news is that Southern will make adjustments to class locations and work to accommodate building access through our Disability Services office,” Hamilton wrote. “We make every effort to offer reasonable accommodations whenever possible.”

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