Campus proves challenging for handicapped

Photo by RENNIE PATTERSON
Mount Mary student tries to maneuver up stairs with an injury.

By CHRISTINA CARAYANNOPOULOS

Joints pop and crack with every step as sharp pain affects the ability to walk at a natural pace. Navigating from one class to the next can be difficult, if not impossible, because of many stairways and few elevators on campus.

Jimmy Bentivenga is a junior in the dietetics department at Mount Mary University. He is currently recovering from a knee and hip replacement. His recovery deters him from using stairs, which makes navigation around campus difficult.

“It was kind of a learning experience in how to do that through the building,” Bentivenga said.

So what can Mount Mary do for its disabled students?

Marci Ocker has served as the accessibility services coordinator for eight years. Accessibility services at Mount Mary covers temporary or permanent physical and cognitive disabilities.

Accommodations offered for physical restrictions include elevators, temporary parking passes, wheelchairs, wheelchair lifts and extra time between classes.

Despite the accommodations provided, some students still find themselves struggling with inadequate accessibility on the campus.

“Obviously our physical structure is a barrier,” Ocker said. “But we’re a very old campus … In our redesign and in our new construction all of it is done in accordance with ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] and looking at accessibility.”

Some of the renovations include bathroom remodeling with ramps and push button doors in Notre Dame Hall.

However, there are no further plans for accessibility renovations.

“Not all the sidewalks have been beveled … I would find it more helpful if they were all rounded down,“ Bentivenga said. “Even one step is difficult. I have to have a hand rail.”

Before the renovations, the accessibility challenges were even greater.

Justice major Sarah Mueller graduated from Mount Mary in 2009.

“The elevators broke down constantly,” Mueller said. “They were fixed promptly every single time but they broke down a lot.”

Mueller was often wheelchair-ridden, due to major surgeries, which required her to use elevators.

“Tons of other students without disabilities utilized them and sometimes I’d be late for class and that got kind of frustrating,” Mueller said.

In addition to broken-down elevators, she dealt with narrow doorways and a deadly latex allergy. Despite the campus’s shortcomings, Mueller spoke highly of her experience at Mount Mary.

“I think that Mount Mary was really a fantastic school for the [physically limited],” Mueller said. “It’s small for one, and two, you can avoid being injured walking outside in the winter … because of the underground tunnel system.”

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