For sophomore communication major Jimmy Kennedy, travelling to and from East Hall to various buildings on campus is not as easy as it seems.
Kennedy relies on both a mobility scooter and a rolling walker to help him get from point A to point B during the day. He is not the only student who needs accommodations, and making the campus more accessible is an important part of university planning.
Executive Director for Student Development Debbie Spinney’s job is focused on accommodations made on campus. She not only coordinates services for students with disabilities, but the Academic Success Center, new student experience course, Bridge Scholars and BUILD programs and with students on probation. The Bridge Scholars is a campus scholarship program while BUILD helps students that have learning disabilities.
Spinney said the university abides by the law campus wide by providing enough access to doors in and out of buildings. Every residence hall, except for two, is wheelchair accessible. Warren Hall and Cravens Hall have steps to get into the building, and a ramp would be too steep, according to Spinney. However, the university places students in halls that are accessible to them.
“We work with the students to put them in other halls that are accessible,” Spinney said. “And if they have family members who are wheelchair users, we move them into the other halls so they [family members] can come and visit as well.”
Spinney said the university also makes sure to go above just what the law regulates, to make many situations easier for students.
“When Hanna was under construction a few years ago, we didn’t want to have students who were wheelchair users or who were blind crossing the street, so we moved their entire classes across to the north side of Hanna Avenue. We work with where the student is and what they need to make accessible situations for them,” Spinney said. “We don’t have to have automatic doors.”
“Nobody has to have automatic doors,” Spinney said. “But we do because it’s the right thing to do for all people on campus. We’ve made a real effort the past two years to put automatic doors in all the buildings. There’s only one building left, and we are working on that.”
While Kennedy believes the university does a good job of following the rules and being sure that accommodations are made, he has ideas for the campus to improve its accessibility.
“I think the university does a decent job [of] ensuring that the campus is accessible to its students that have physical disabilities. While UIndy is ADA compliant and does meet standards for what is needed by law, I feel they could improve in several ways,” Kennedy said. “This includes providing bike racks, to ensure that bikes are not chained along handicap ramps, including more than one ADA compliant workstation in computer labs, [and] having automatic door openers on a few bathrooms in the most common places on campus.”
Kennedy is mostly focused on renovations to sports facilities and the library. He is currently advocating for handrails to provide access to both common seating and press areas at Key Stadium and Nicoson Hall and would like to see an automatic door installed in the library.
“People with disabilities enjoy sports. And even if we cannot play, we like to watch,” Kennedy said. “While sitting on the indoor track at a basketball game is okay, it is not the same experience as sitting with friends in the stands. For the press area, it is a bit intimidating for me to call a game at Key Stadium knowing [that] I need to climb stairs without a rail a part of the way up. I don’t want to endanger myself or others from falling because of something that can easily be fixed.”
As the renovations for the five-year plan are being made, Spinney said no alterations will negatively affect accessibility on campus, and all the new renovations will be accessible to all students.
“The goal of accessibility is university wide, and that includes administrators, staff, faculty and students,” Spinney said. “And with the new renovations, we have architects that are very aware of what the guidelines are, and they make recommendations for us and we make recommendations for them.”
While Spinney believes that the university’s accessibility is successful, she said that students should always talk to her, so she can try to improve what is already in place.
“If there is ever a problem or a concern, if the accommodations we have made for them are not working, they need to communicate that with me so that I can fix it or do my best to fix it,” Spinney said. “We want all students to have a great experience at UIndy, regardless of their background, ability or disability. We want everyone to feel welcomed and a part of our community.”