There was an accident. You hurt yourself during a sports activity or fell while playing and injured yourself. Now you have to use crutches to get to your classes. It’s your typical Monday morning and you’re going to class in Bluemont Hall, but once you get to the door, you realize that you have no way of opening it. You are running late because you left at the same time you usually would, but it took you much longer to crutch across campus and at this point, you are exhausted and there’s no one around to help you get into the building you worked so hard to get to.
There isn’t even a button to open the door for you automatically. The rest of the day does not get any better, as you cannot find an accessible entrance into Eisenhower Hall for 10 minutes and the routes that you can take are far out of the way from not only your class, but most of the main entrances.
This is the case for many students on campus, and it’s not just those with temporary disabilities. John Deterding, graduate student in engineering, is a very mobile student who does not require a wheelchair to get around at all. In fact, he usually uses his crutches unless he needs to get somewhere fast. In his experience, K-State has been fairly considerate to his needs.
In his case, however, the Americans with Disabilities Act standards actually over-accommodates his needs, as he does not need accommodations to the extent that someone with a more physically crippling disability would.
“Even though that apartment wasn’t particularly up to my needs, it does fit the ADA regulations,” Deterding, a resident at the Jardine Complex, said when referring to his original plan to stay at Jardine. “My very specific situation didn’t allow me to live there like you would plan on someone needing an accessible apartment.”
All physical disabilities require different levels of accommodations. While Deterding said K-State accommodated his amazingly, other students like Jasmine Mitchell and Michael Beeler said just the opposite.
Both students were temporarily injured and said they had a hard time getting around campus on crutches. Mitchell, freshman in mechanical engineering, was on crutches just around finals week and hadn’t even considered going to the Student Access Center as she did not consider it a resource for temporary injuries or disabilities. To Mitchell, there were no clear marks for where accessible entrances were, let alone resources.
As for Beeler, freshman in apparel and textiles, he started out on crutches and actually fell and injured his other leg, landing him in a wheelchair.
“Now that I’m (in) a wheel chair, they tell me they can’t accommodate it at all,” Beeler, who uses a manual wheelchair, said.
Beeler said the condition of the sidewalks makes it hard to get around in addition to the steps on campus, especially near Cardwell and Leisure hall. Beeler plans to get an electric wheelchair in order to get around campus better. However, he found K-State highly unhelpful when it came to finding or paying for it.
When it came to contacting the Student Access Center, he said it felt as though they were highly disorganized.
“It felt like they were trying to pacify me for a minute,” Beeler said.
K-State’s campus meets the ADA’s requirement of having access to most resources. The university may very well meet some of the bare minimums, especially when some of the buildings were built after 1990 when the ADA was passed.
However, the majority of campus was built before 1990, as K-State is more than 150 years old. In addition, the ADA’s standards do not account for all mental and physical disabilities. Toni Kroll, sign language interpreter with the Student Access Center, said the university needs more automatic doors.
“Disabled students are continually ignored,” Kroll said.
Kroll said she believes the accessibility on K-State’s campus is lacking in many ways.
“The visually impaired struggle,” Kroll said. “Blind students use the edge of the curb to find where they are, but when snow is pushed onto the curb in winter, they cannot even use that.”
The lack of acknowledgement for students with physical and mental disabilities is a problem, even when planning for the 2025 improvements K-State plans to implement around campus.
To Kroll, students with disabilities are almost an afterthought for K-State. When asked if there were any initiatives to improve conditions for the physically disabled, she admitted that she was unsure.
“It’s always a money issue,” Kroll said. “It kind of stinks that it comes down to that, but it does.”