Section: Opinion

Accessibility is more than a door button

Ah, handicap door buttons. You know, those things we’re not supposed to use because it wears out the motor but use anyway because opening doors is hard? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go on a holier-than-thou rant about it. I’m no better than you — I’m worse, in fact. Sometimes I push it, get impatient and decide to push it again to make it go faster.

I don’t need to tell you those small buttons perform an extremely important service to those who would otherwise be unable to open doors. Well, them and lazy college kids.

Having to wait for people to open a door for you every time you need to enter a building is not only a waste of time; it’s demeaning, too. Coming from a high school whose idea of handicap access is a ramp, I was originally taken aback by the sheer number of handicap buttons that cover Kenyon’s campus, especially in the newer buildings.

Many places on campus haven’t received the touch-up they sorely need. And no, I don’t just mean Ascension. It would be nice to have handicap access there, sure, but it’s hard enough for people who don’t have a disability to navigate that place. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that its upper floors house the dusty skeletons of wide-eyed first years who entered, never to find their way out.

No, I’m talking about the dorms. Strictly speaking, Lewis Residence Hall. Our dormitory has a big problem with accessibility.  Justin Martin ’19, simply put, uses a wheelchair and can’t get into the common room lounge. Sure, he has a bigger room than all of us (he even has a couch!), but it’s hardly consolation for his inability to come in and sit with everybody in the lounge as we do homework, watch TV and shoot the breeze.

I’m no carpenter, but I’m fairly certain that from a purely procedural standpoint, it wouldn’t be too hard to put a ramp into the lounge. Of course, we would need a button to open the door, but at the most that would require replacing the lounge door.

Perhaps the real issue is that this even needs to be a special case just because somebody in Lewis is in a wheelchair. Shouldn’t Kenyon, a place that considers itself inclusive, actually make an effort to include everyone — especially if you’re going to call it a common room? Or perhaps the administration means for it to be a common room for those who can actually get into it.

Grant Miner ’19 is undeclared from Sacramento, Calif. Contact him at minerg@kenyon.edu.

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