Justin Martin ’19 attended the Activities Fair this past month with a distinct plan of action. While many clubs caught his eye, he had one ultimate concern about them all: “Are your meetings being held in a place that is accessible?”
Martin, who uses a motorized wheelchair, believes his presence on campus to be a political statement. Coinciding with Martin’s first year is the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against disabled people. The ADA legally requires all schools that receive public funding to make every major event accessible.
Accessibility seems to be a major topic on campus this year after Kenyon’s handicap-accessible renovation of Middle Path over the summer. Student Council started off the year with a meeting dedicated to the importance of accessibility.
“When disabled people aren’t included in little school events like this, it sends a message to everyone else that they don’t need to be included anywhere else either,” Martin said.
Erin Salva, director of student accessibility and support services, thinks accessibility will be a priority on campus this year. In particular, she is enthusiastic about the universal access and concerns form. New this year, the form is available through the Kenyon website. It allows students and faculty to report issues with accessibility as soon as they notice them. Salva, after checking out the issue and making sure Maintenance is equipped to address it, may mark these ADA violations “priorities,” ensuring they are dealt with quickly.
The Tabletop Club, a tabletop game club, was the first student organization to access this form. Their North Campus Apartment posed an accessibility issue at the beginning of the year, with a two-inch gap between its front stoop and the sidewalk.
That height difference “made accessing the NCA very difficult for some of our members,” Tabletop president Colton Flick ’16 said.
Tabletop Club contacted Salva, who directed them to the universal access and concerns form.
“Salva passed that information along to Maintenance, and shortly thereafter they installed a removable ramp outside our front door,” Flick said.
One other person has turned in a complaint form so far, according to Salva. Next week, during Kenyon’s week-long ADA anniversary celebration — slated to include a film screening, a poetry night and a speaker — Salva plans to promote the form as a helpful tool to help students create change.
Additionally, Salva has been working with Student Council President Phoebe Roe ’16 and Lin Miao ’17, whom Roe contacted over the summer about collaborating. The three decided they would encourage all student organizations to mark their events as accessible when possible.
Instead of marking accessible events, some students are changing their meeting places. Quiz Bowl changed its meetings from its traditional location in Ascension Hall’s Campbell-Meeker Room to a classroom in Samuel Mather Hall.
“We wanted to make sure that anyone who was interested was able to attend our meetings and, unfortunately, almost all the rooms in Ascension are not accessible to some students,” Quiz Bowl co-president Graham Reid ’17 said.
Some changes, both physical and cultural, need to be made now, according to Martin. Classes and events are still held in Ascension, which does not have an elevator. Old Kenyon remains a popular place to host parties: it, too, lacks an elevator.
“Every day that we make even one tiny thing inaccessible is an experience that a ton of people are missing out on,” Martin said. “The question shouldn’t be, ‘Why shouldn’t we make our events accessible?’ The question should be, ‘What people are we missing out on if we don’t make our events accessible?’”