Sitting on a desk in Erin Salva’s office is a thick green folder stuffed with paperwork filed and organized for each individual Kenyon student suffering from an injury. As the coordinator for the Office of Disability Services (ODS), Salva works with injured students to make on-campus living as easy and “normal” as possible.
“We should wrap you all in bubble wrap,” Salva said. Given this year’s unusually high number of injuries, that may not be such a bad idea. This fall, six students came to Kenyon having just undergone surgery, and as athletics preseason began, that number quickly doubled. “At one point there were 12 students on crutches, and that doesn’t even include [over 30] concussed students” Salva said.
The high number of injuries creates a problem for the ODS, especially on a walking campus like Kenyon’s. The challenge then becomes how to get students where they need to go as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many students believe that a fleet of golf carts could solve the mobility problem. “I would have really liked a golf cart; they just didn’t have enough for little old me,” said Amelia Barnes ’16, who suffered from a broken ankle and has been on crutches for over a month.
But, Salva explained the dearth of golf carts is not due to a lack of funding. The small size of Kenyon’s campus means more golf carts simply wouldn’t work. “There were too many students to serve. We could have 12 carts on campus maybe. ﾅ That could be interesting,” Salva said. “Can you imagine? Wednesday night, Saturday night joy rides? I actually can see having more carts on campus contributing to the injury pool.”
To compensate for an insufficient number of golf carts, Salva worked with Campus Safety to hire a new Safety officer whose sole job is to transport injured students from place to place. To get a ride, students have to call Campus Safety and the driver is dispatched. However, the officer only works during normal office hours, so students may run into trouble after hours when they try to get to dinner or go to evening events.
Additionally, in the winter months, Salva works with Maintenance to create a plan for students with mobility issues. “I create a weather schedule ﾗ laying out what places need to be salted first,” Salva said.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ODS is not required to help students with temporary disabilities, such as sports injuries or concussions. “I work with these students because I think that’s the right thing to do to provide support and assistance,” Salva said.
Unfortunately, Salva’s ability to work with injured students does not extend to professors, so when professors suffer from an injury, they are on their own. “We haven’t had many faculty [members] who have needed support with mobility issues but when it happens, it’s definitely tough,” Salva said. Professors with injuries cannot use Safety’s transportation service.
Jennifer Nichols, an assistant professor of Arabic, had foot surgery over the summer and spent the first few weeks of school on crutches. Nichols worked with the ODS to try to solve her mobility problems. “The actual office has been really helpful and they were very responsive to my needs and gave me suggestions,” Nichols said.
But Nichols thinks Kenyon can do better. She believes much of the problem could be solved with greater campus-wide awareness. Salva agrees. “We need to look at things like accessible doors and say, ﾑThis is not an issue related to mobility or disability or whatever. It’s universal accessibility.'”
For now, the ODS will continue to work with students to make Kenyon as safe and accessible as possible for a student body that seems to be, as Salva put it, “accident prone.”
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