Consider accessibility when making decisions

This week, The Oakland Post has highlighted a range of recent or upcoming construction projects on campus grounds.

While I have no doubt that the administration intends for the buildings to be beautiful and benefit the academic experience here, they really need to worry about taking care of some of the basic problems around campus first.

As a disabled student on campus, I sometimes wonder if the administration takes accessibility into account when making decisions.

I came to campus this semester on a day when the only thing open was Barnes & Noble. That’s fine — I don’t expect Oakland University to be open over the holidays. My problem stems from the entrance they picked for the bookstore.

They opened the north entrance which is really just a landing. You have to go down a flight of stairs to get to the bookstore, which was not going to work with my wheelchair.

Granted I was on campus during break and I’m willing to concede that I would not run into this issue every day, but there are other barriers on campus that the disabled community at OU puts up with on a regular basis.

For those of you who are unaware, the offices of The Oakland Post are located in the basement of the Oakland Center. As a staff reporter, I spend a significant amount of time on this lower level.

One of the first things I take note of when I go somewhere is where accessible emergency exits are — you just never know what can happen.

The only exit from the basement of the Oakland Center leads to an enclosed concrete patio from which the only escape is a flight of multiple steps.  This is not only inconvenient but poses a safety hazard.

A less dangerous, but no less frustrating case, is South Foundation Hall. There is a button to operate an automatic door which takes you into a lobby with an elevator.

However, the classrooms on the first floor are on the other side of a double door that has no button. This means that me and my fellow students in the disabled community, must rely on someone else to be around to open the door.

Sometimes a door has a button, but someone has forgotten to turn it on that day. A simple oversight, sure, but it’s especially frustrating because the functionality is already there.

The parking lot, a common frustration among students, lacks handicapped spaces.

Some of this responsibility falls on the students as well. Please don’t borrow your grandmother’s handicapped sticker and use it if you don’t need to. Trust me, it’s better for all concerned if I’m not trying to traverse multiple lanes of parking lot traffic in my chair to get to my van.

Finally, there are very few unisex family bathrooms scattered throughout the campus. The handicapped stalls in the men’s and women’s bathrooms are plenty big enough.

Nevertheless, there are times when someone might need to answer nature’s call with the help of an aide of the opposite gender. When this happens, we would rather not endure the weird looks that occur when you walk out of the wrong bathroom.

I think I should close this by saying that overwhelmingly, my interactions with the university regarding my disability have been positive.

The people at Disability Support Services always have a smile and are willing to help. They need to have more input when it comes to the construction projects that go on around the university though.

I have a simple request: fix the problems you have before creating something new.

Kevin Graham is a staff reporter at The Oakland Post and has been in a wheelchair his entire life. 


Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @KevinGraham88