Looking Critically at Skidmore’s Handicap Accessibility

Image By Tara Lerman

Skidmore College has a beautiful campus located in a scenic region of Upstate New York. Its academic buildings are fairly new and relatively easy to navigate, and while the dorms are, well, dorms, they provide most students with a convenient space. The dining hall serves fresh, healthy food and creates a comfortable atmosphere for socializing. Overall, I would say Skidmore’s campus is an ideal environment. But, that is probably because I am an able-bodied student.

What many of us fail to realize is that the Skidmore campus is horribly inaccessible for those students who utilize wheelchairs, crutches, or any other sort of physical aid.

For instance, the handicap button for many on-campus buildings does not work properly, which poses a problem for handicapped students trying to get to class on time. Most dorms and apartments, with the exception of Jonsson Tower, are without elevators or ramps. Now one might argue that a handicapped person could just live on the first floor. In theory, such an assumption makes sense.

However, certain dorms on campus, such as Wilmarth Hall, actually require students to walk up or down a staircase in order to simply reach the first floor. Assume that a student wants to visit his or her friend who lives on the third floor of a dorm, or attend a party in a lofted apartment. Not so simple now, is it? This poor architectural organization makes it difficult, and often impossible for students with physical disabilities to socialize the way they may wish to.

Do not get me wrong; Skidmore’s treatment of students with disabilities is not all negative. In fact, when it comes to learning disabilities or disorders that affect academics, Skidmore does an excellent job accommodating students. Every professor at Skidmore is required to include in their syllabus how a student’s disabilities can and will be accommodated.

The office of Student Academic Services (SAS), located on the bottom floor of Starbuck Center, provides accommodation letters, tutoring, and a quiet study environment for students. However, when it comes to getting around campus quickly and efficiently, there is certainly some more work to be done.

It is important to note that Skidmore does not have an abundance of physically handicapped students, or at least not visibly so. However, I suppose there is a reason for that. People with physical disabilities pay attention to accessibility on each campus they visit before they, like all other prospective students, decide which one best fits their needs socially and academically.

Perhaps if Skidmore were to adjust the way its campus is organized, we would be able to accommodate more students with disabilities in the student body. That way, students of all kinds will be able to thrive at Skidmore and view the college as the creative and tolerant place that it really is.

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