A Survey of Campus Accessibility – The Simpsonian
Most students navigate the Simpson campus with no problem or hesitation. Others, especially those with physical disabilities, may struggle with accessibility issues that go unnoticed by many.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) covers private universities. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) covers student housing and dormitories. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers federally funded programs and services, including most post-secondary institutions. All three laws can apply to student housing.
All new construction and alterations must comply with ADA 2010 standards for accessible design. For existing facilities, private universities must remove architectural barriers that are “structural in nature” and where removal is “easily feasible and can be done without undue difficulty or expense.”
Some examples of removing barriers include installing ramps, making curb cuts in sidewalks and driveways, and rearranging furniture.
Simpson must accommodate students with disabilities in order to meet ADA standards. Elevators, ramps and automatic doors are important to make buildings accessible.
Upper level accommodations are limited in their living options for students with disabilities. The Clinton, Washington, Hamilton, Detroit and Weinman apartments are not ideal for students in wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
Laundry facilities in the majority of buildings are only accessible by stairs. Colonial had a ramp for one of the rear entrances, but it was removed in the fall.
Barker Hall and Station Square Apartments are the only residential buildings on campus to have an elevator, making the entire building wheelchair accessible. Station Square is the most expensive housing option on campus.
There are also concerns about the use of elevators for some people with disabilities. Recently, a student from the University of North Carolina Laura Saavedra Forero, who uses a wheelchair, was stuck in her fourth-floor dorm after the building’s elevator broke down. Saavedra Forero had to be evacuated by EMS, who spent 30 minutes guiding her down the narrow stairwell after waiting over an hour and a half for their arrival.
It wasn’t the first time she had trouble with elevators on campus, missing two weeks of class in the fall when an elevator in the classroom building broke down.
Several academic and residential buildings on campus have elevators to make them more accessible to students. As required by lawelevators must have a current operating permit displayed at all times.
According to Iowa Code Chapter 89A, elevators must be inspected “at least once a year.” However, many published campus elevator permits date back to mid-2020. The safety council may adopt rules providing for inspections at different intervals. It’s unclear if Simpson has an exception. Director of Facilities Management Brian Schultes was contacted but did not respond to the interview request.
Kresge Hall, Picken Hall and Buxton Hall are only accessible on the first floor. Community areas aren’t as easily accessible – Buxton’s lounge, computer lab, and laundromat have a short flight of stairs to access. Picken’s laundry room is located in the basement. Kresge’s computer lab and kitchen are also located in the basement.
Accessibility is not an issue exclusive to housing. Students experience accessibility issues all over campus: from blocked doors accessible to disabled people when it’s cold to unusable disabled door knobs.
the American research institutes reports that a lack of accessibility greatly affects retention – 46% of students with disabilities who graduated from high school enrolled in a post-secondary institution. Only 34% of those enrolled in a four-year institution completed their studies in eight years.
A 2018 investigation found that 86% of universities enroll students with disabilities, but only 24% of schools surveyed said they provided assistance to such students “to a great extent”.
Students with disabilities can work with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to develop an individual accommodation plan to ensure they have equal access to all aspects of their Simpson experience. however, it became more difficult.
Monica Lewis served as director of SAS, but began stepping down in March and is committed to working five hours a week for the Academic Resource Center until the May term. The college is currently looking for Lewis’s replacement.
According to Simpson website“reasonable accommodation, as determined by the [Accessibility Services] director, should be provided to all students who have a disability that affects a major life function.