By The Gatepost Editorial Board
Framingham State is not a fully accessible environment for its community members with disabilities, and is therefore not a truly inclusive institution.
From absent curb cuts to faulty handicap push buttons, this University is often oblivious to the community’s accessibility concerns.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 guarantees civil rights for individuals with disabilities in order to prevent and guard against discrimination.
As a result of this act, the University must provide “reasonable” accommodations to its students with disabilities, according to Ann McDonald, chief of staff and general counsel.
However, the University does not even have an employee whose sole purpose it is to address these issues.
Is it unreasonable to want equal access on this campus?
At the Nov. 15 Campus Safety Walk, which is held every semester by SGA, concerns were raised to administrators about the absence of an ADA coordinator as well as some specific issues students face on campus.
Some of those concerns included the faded yellow lines on the stairs leading up from State Street toward Crocker, Peirce, and Horace Mann halls, which are needed for people with visual impairments as well as the curb cut in front of West Hall, which is blocked by a parking spot.
Both of these concerns were addressed within the days following the walk by Danny Giard, executive director of Facilities. We thank him for his quick response.
However, this is not enough.
We cannot address accessibility issues at their core without someone who can dedicate their time to evaluating the physical campus on an ongoing basis.
The Facilities Department does not conduct any sort of self-evaluation regarding accessibility on campus. The best the department can do is check a handicap push button if they happen to be near one and think of it.
The way this University addresses accessibility concerns is absolutely ridiculous, and our students with disabilities deserve better.
Becoming aware of what is wrong on campus is the first step to fixing anything. SGA has acknowledged this and started its own Ad Hoc Accessibility Committee.
The Gatepost proposes the administration put together a University-wide accessibility committee at which accessibility concerns can be discussed and addressed.
The University should conduct an accessibility audit of its campus and make the results of this overview public. The community should then receive updates on a regular basis about what is being done to address the accessibility issues that have been discovered.
The city of Framingham does this every three years.
Our community deserves the same level of assessment, responsiveness, and transparency.
Though we understand the University may not have the money to address every accessibility issue immediately, it needs to prioritize resolving them within its budgeting process as well as working toward raising the necessary funds, such as by applying for grants.
These issues are worth the University’s time and money.
This summer, the White House issued a proclamation on the anniversary of the ADA’s signing. This proclamation states that the act “enshrines the idea - central to the spirit of our Nation - that all of us are deserving of equal dignity, respect, and opportunity.”
Furthermore, the proclamation states, “As we celebrate the legacy of the ADA, let us take this opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made and renew our commitment to achieving the ADA’s full promise of advancing disability equity, dignity, access, and inclusion.”
Just as we have renewed our commitment as a country, Framingham State needs to do so as an institution, and this means taking the necessary steps that will ensure this campus is accessible to and inclusive of everyone.
All of our community members deserve equal dignity, respect, and opportunity at Framingham State.