For most UMBC students, physical accessibility and difficulties navigating campus do not demand much thought. For other handicapped students who are less able-bodied and are unable to use stairs or climb hills, getting around UMBC presents a certain challenge.
It is apparent that UMBC’s main campus was not designed with the needs of disabled students in mind. Features such as handicap ramps or routes are simply an afterthought in the grand scheme of campus accessibility for all of its students and staff.
Margot Deville, a freshman psychology major, is one such student that faces this daily challenge of struggling to get around classes. “UMBC is a maze, I have to add in a lot of extra time into getting to class now that I’m not fully able bodied. It takes me twice as long to get up the stairs without falling down, which sometimes doesn’t seem like too bad of an idea. It would be a lot faster.”
While UMBC does have designated handicap routes that weave through buildings, leading students to travel by elevator after elevator in order to find their way to the top of the circle where buildings like Engineering or Performing Arts and Humanities building are located, this mode of travel can be immensely impractical in terms of time and energy.
Due to the placement of newer building higher up on the hill, students and staff who cannot utilize stairs are forced to take elevators through numerous buildings. While alternative routes do exist on campus, they are extremely limited and not easily accessible.
According to Bridget Anger, a freshman chemical engineering major, “It can be hard to get across campus using the wheelchair friendly routes and manage to not have to either leave class early or arrive at the next class late. Access points to buildings or classrooms are also really frustrating because they aren’t always clearly labeled or helpful.”
The current state of UMBC’s accommodations for students with physical disabilities is frail and disappointing. Although they do exist, the handicap routes and access points that UMBC has constructed are not sufficient when it comes to providing disabled individuals with time-practical means for navigating around campus.
Free movement is something many of us take for granted, but not something to which all have access. By not providing adequate means for disabled students and staff to find their way around campus, UMBC is adding yet another burden onto their shoulders.
A possible solution that UMBC should consider is building more handicap ramps along the stairways that border many of the academic buildings. College campuses around the nation have already incorporated such designs to better accommodate their disabled students and staff. UMBC should follow suit and hire engineers to propose similar accessibility changes.
If the geography of the campus inhibits some students from getting to their classes on time, then UMBC must either adapt its campus to fit the needs of all students or provide concrete and viable accommodations for these students so that their academic and social lives do not suffer due to factors out of their control.