Handicapped campus: one student’s sprint to class


August 20, 2010 – Lexington, Kentucky, USA – Britney McIntosh of the Kentucky Kernel. (Credit image: © David Stephenson)

Column by Britney McIntosh. E-mail [email protected].

I wasn’t going to make it, and I knew it.

Glancing down at my watch to confirm, I picked up the crutches and swung faster and faster. Two minutes to make it to Spanish class and one floor to go. I slammed in the elevator button frantically. No light. I tried again and again, this time harder, as my seconds ticked away. No light.

Frustrated and outraged, I ignored my doctors nagging voice in my head, threw my crutches against the railing and began to slowly drag myself up the stairs, my throbbing ankle thrown to the side.

Can we really consider UK a handicap friendly campus when the classroom buildings, Greek houses and pedestrian traffic pathways present daily struggles like this to disabled people that scream anything but “friendly?”

So maybe I did something ungraceful. I jumped out of a car, got stuck and messed up my ankle. But that does not mean I deserve to be publicly humiliated while everyone snickers and watches the now sweaty “gimp girl” crutch herself up the classroom building stairs at a turtle’s pace.

The elevator in Smith Hall has gone out about ten times this week, and the elevator on one side of the classroom building has been out for an entire week. The elevator in the Grehan building shudders when it moves.

But in order to even get to that frustrating point you have to make it across the campus first. This feat is complicated by the many sets of staircases sprinkled throughout campus.

Say you’re coming from Blazer Hall and you’re headed to central campus. Major obstacle — the infamous “awkward stairs.” In order to get around this challenge of the day, you would either have to go all the way to the ramped pathway by the Fine Arts Building, head down the sidewalk around the corner of Limestone and up the sidewalks there, or weave through the Student Center take the elevator upstairs and exit the building.

And say you wanted to join a fraternity? A senior member of Phi Sigma Kappa told me a guy in a wheelchair came out to rush one year but quit after one week because people had to carry him into the fraternity house.

As if wheelchairs and crutches didn’t make people feel out of place already, we make them feel 10 times more unwelcome by forcing them to take creative routes through campus. By the time they even get to class they’ve already spent 20 minutes of creativity and a whole lot of physical effort. For some people, this is their everyday.

I wouldn’t make it. This I know.