By Owen Lee, Staff Writer
Schools in the U.S, including UMass Dartmouth, are set to federal regulations so that they can accommodate a wide range of students, including those that are physically disabled, chronically ill, or neurodivergent.
In my personal experience, capitalist institutions such as colleges are quick to exploit customers and cut corners to save money, so these regulations are pretty important! It’s an unfortunate fact of society that handicapped people are often ignored, or deliberately hurt; for instance, the 2016 film “Me Before You” cast high-profile actors and cost millions of dollars to use quadriplegic people as a cheap plot device for a romantic drama. However, our school would surely be different, right?
First, some history. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, created to help people with any kind of disability achieve the same career opportunities, social spaces, and educations as their abled peers.
This act was a major step in giving them access to quality resources and protecting them from state and commercial abuse. It’s not perfect, of course. It’s violated every day when buildings are made wheelchair inaccessible, when service dogs are rejected, when disabled people are just refused service. But it’s a necessary reform for protecting the rights of disabled Americans. I don’t think I need to introduce the concept of caring about other students, honestly. The ADA and similar systems serve people that, for instance, are legally blind, are paraplegic, or are suffering from mental illness. These systems are necessary. Ideally, we would be able to support them better as a nation, because these people are still highly skilled individuals who make up a large percentage of the population of our country, but also because they deserve to do what they want like everybody does. But does UMass Dartmouth agree?
Aaron Rawley, a senior history major at UMass Dartmouth, who works in the offices for the Center for Access and Success, gave his perspective on how the school is treating its disabled students: “On the whole it needs to be changed,” he said. “This school was built in the sixties, so a lot of its problems might be grandfathered in.” He cites a lot of maintenance problems around campus, such as cracks in the cement walkways, as being a danger to the general public. “People just trip and fall on the walkways. In the winter, I’ve slipped and fallen on ice all the time.” There are other problems on campus as well. The makeshift ramp near the amphitheater seems to be dangerous and unstable, and there aren’t many ramps on campus to begin with. Another problem on campus, for instance, is the lift elevator in the Campus Center, situated in Wendy’s. According to students I’ve talked to, the elevator is noisy, obtrusive, and for students who can’t take the stairs, it’s the only way from the auditorium to the dining area and vice versa. As a layperson. I can’t say if UMass Dartmouth is breaking any laws in their current state. However, although there are no outstanding incidents, improvement is certainly possible. UMass Dartmouth recently spent some major construction money and a lot of time into building up the quad right outside of its Campus Center. If that money and time could’ve been spent fixing its maintenance issues, then the school would certainly be better for it, and the students would probably appreciate it too.