Margaret McCrina, Special to the Chanticleer
So yeah, I’m that girl with two broken legs. And no, there’s no exciting story. My legs were misaligned, so I had corrective surgery to rotate the bones into the proper positions.
My surgery and recovery has taught me a lot, in particular that the term “handicap accessible” is a very loose term that covers a broad range of accessibility. JSU’s Disability Support Service states that their mission is to “ensure equal learning and opportunities […] by increasing the capacity of Jacksonville State University to eliminate physical, programmatic, policy, informational and attitudinal barriers,” but how feasible is it really to be physically disabled on a college campus? Below are some of the issues I’ve come across.
When I first returned to campus I had to be driven to all of my classes, which meant acquiring a temporary handicap permit from UPD. Thankfully, UPD has handicapped parking. They also have a door marked “handicap accessible,” but once you go through the door, there is another door labelled “Authorized Personnel Only” and a flight of stairs leading up. So long story short, I had to be carried into the UPD office.
While we’re on the handicap permit thought, JSU only issues their temporary permits for two week periods. I don’t need a permanent permit, as I’m clearly not permanently disabled, but it is equally clear that I need the permit for much longer than just two weeks. I did manage to work it out with UPD, but it would have been annoying, not to mention difficult, if they had actually made me renew the permit every two weeks.
Handicap parking can also be difficult to find, not because there’s a lack of handicap spaces, but because people blatantly abuse regulations, and there is little enforcement. There have been a few times when handicap parking if full, and then when I finally get up to the door a girl in six inch heels walks to a car parked in handicap parking and drives off.
I have to use the elevators to get to classes and to work, and all of the elevators in the academic buildings are incredibly dubious. The one in Mason has holes in the floor. The one in Stone had a chunk of the ceiling laying on the floor the other day. And all of them shake and creak ominously. Stone’s elevator actually broke down and was unusable for a day or two last week, which fortunately didn’t happen any earlier in the semester, as I would have either not been able to get to work, or I would have had to have called someone to come wheel me up the sidewalk to the second floor.
In addition to not having well-placed or easily navigable wheelchair ramps, many of the ramps around JSU are in need of repair. The one on the third floor of Stone has a kind of crater at the bottom, which creates a large pool any time there’s a bit of rain, and, as you can imagine, getting your casts wet and then having them soggy for the rest of the day is not pleasant.
The library is largely inaccessible to anyone who is physically handicapped, as the bookcases are so close together that a wheelchair can’t fit down the aisles.
The weighted doors, particularly in the dorms, are a nightmare. Especially in my wheelchair, I was unable to open the door my room or the door the building. Even after I transitioned to the crutches, it was hard to do without help from someone else, as I couldn’t hold the door open while swinging my crutches through.
These are the biggest issues I’ve noticed, and clearly, these are based solely off of my own personal experience. I haven’t been in all the buildings, so I can’t speak for handicap access across the whole campus. I’m also blessed in that I’ve always been able walk a little bit, if push came to shove.
For anyone who is permanently handicapped, I imagine that they would have even greater difficulty than me, and they have all of my respect for doing this day in and day out. You guys are truly awe-inspiring.