By Riley Hanna
Alongside writing for the Pioneer Log, I work as a tour guide on campus. A mandatory part of tour guide training is walking the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible tour route and learning how to effectively give a tour to prospective students with disabilities. While walking the route, I was astounded. Parts of the tour that were ADA approved were simply not accessible to students who used wheelchairs, and much of the campus was completely cut off. In my state of shock, I asked how many ADA-compliant tours are actually given, and the answer did not surprise me: not many. Most tour guides have never given an ADA-compliant tour, and those that are exceptions have given only one or two. Because of the low frequency of ADA-compliant tours, it seems possible that many students with disabilities do not consider Lewis & Clark as an option, for valid reasons.
LC’s terrain is extremely inaccessible for students with disabilities. Only six residence halls — Holmes, East, West, Roberts, Juniper, and parts of Stewart — are considered ADA accessible, which restricts students with disabilities from most other dorms on campus. Furthermore, many of the cobblestone paths prove difficult for people in wheelchairs, as they are uneven and easily become slippery. Because LC is situated on a hill, getting from place to place is a strenuous task if you are not able-bodied.
At the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) meeting on Oct. 18, President Wim Wiewel discussed the Strategic Plan in works to create change on campus. When Wiewel asked attendees what issues they think are most pertinent, Disabled Student Union (DSU) representative Nicole Lewis ’21 spoke about the administration’s lack of acknowledgement of the issues faced by disabled students. Wiewel responded to her concerns.
“I would disagree with you that we don’t want to acknowledge it, it is certainly something we are aware of,” Wiewel said. “This is a difficult campus, there’s no doubt about that. It’s big, it’s hill-y, it’s forested, it’s not like having a flat urban streetscape where all the buildings are close, connected, and flat. It is a tougher place, that’s absolutely true. It is a part of the master planning effort, the issue of accessibility.”
Michel George, the Associate Vice President for Facilities, expanded on how exactly the plan will address the issue of inaccessibility on campus.
“The Master Plan calls for all of our residence halls over a period of years to be upgraded,” George said. “When they are upgraded at that point, they will be modified. Every building that gets upgraded and renovated will be brought fully up to code, and probably beyond code.”
The plan has a time frame of 15 to 20 years to be fully executed, and some major projects are going to be completed within the first five to eight years, according to George. In the meantime, Facilities Services is focusing their efforts on making renovations around campus. These projects include modifying doors that are currently inaccessible, fixing minor problems such as ledges and paving parts of the cobblestone pathway around the gardens. George also emphasized that if anyone sees a problem in the infrastructure on campus, report it to Facilities Services.
The current state of the LC campus serves as a hindrance for those with disabilities, and until renovations are completed, disabled students will continue to struggle. Additionally, the inaccessibility of much of the campus has virtually cut off an entire population of students from going to LC without fighting a constant uphill battle. As shown from the lack of ADA-compliant tours given, many potential students with physical disabilities do not consider LC a viable option. As an able-bodied student, I feel lucky navigating the campus with ease, and I believe all other able-bodied students should recognize our privileges and help to advocate for a more inclusive environment.