College doors: not so accessible to everyone

For some wheelchair-users at the College, door accessibility on campus can present a problem.

However, College administrators say they are working behind the scenes to make campus buildings more accessible.

Kim Pearson, professor of English, has ankylosing spondylitis and uses a wheelchair. She says the handicap door in Holman Hall is the hardest one to enter.

“The handicap door is a heavy door to open,” she said. “I push it open in order to get into the elevator and then I have to wedge my wheelchair to get through.”

“A couple of times this summer alarms went off since they were testing the alarm systems, but we didn’t have elevators when they went off,” Pearson added. “I tell the police where I am and if it’s real, I’ll make it down the steps.”

A. Terry Yamiolkwsi, from the office of Differing Abilities, said the College is working toward fixing many of the doors.

“Access to buildings on campus for persons with disabilities is improving and continues to improve,” Yamiolkowski said. “There is continuous work and planning behind the scenes of which many persons are not aware.”

Yamiolkowski said there are several steps currently being taken to improve the situation, especially in buildings with non-automatic doors.

Yamiolkowski mentioned installing lever door handles and adjusting the weight of the door closers to assist persons with wheelchairs on non-automatic doors, for example.

“Most persons with disabilities with wheelchairs have learned to successfully operate non-powered doors using their chairs as leverage,” he added.

Yamiolkowski said there have been improvements to older buildings.

“We continue to upgrade access to older buildings with yearly projects,” said Yamiolkowski. “One example would be the automatic doors and ramp in the back of Forcina Hall which were added after the parking garage was installed.”

Yamiolkowski thinks everyone can play a part in improving building access.

People who are not “persons with disabilities should consider using less use of the automatic doors for their access to buildings. We would not only conserve energy but also ensure better functionality on the existing doors,” she said.

“I think they make a genuine attempt (to improve accessibility to buildings),” Pearson said. “It’s not cheap. And part of it is that you don’t always have representation.”