The University of South Carolina needs to strive for better disability access on our campus. If we are to be an all-inclusive school that cares for its students, then the university has to make accessibility for students in wheelchairs and other mobility aids a greater priority.
Our campus is historically significant and has been around for more than 200 years. However, this doesn’t have to mean we prioritize our history over students' ability to get to and from classes, dorms or university buildings.
USC takes up 444 acres of land and some students have classes that can result in a 20 minute or more walk from one side of campus to the other. For some students, this can be an easy feat and they can take the stairs two at a time. For others, it may not be as simple as that.
The Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society is for students who are registered with the on-campus Student Disability Resource Center. Their information page on Garnet Gate says they are, “an avenue whereby the needs, concerns and opinions can be aired, discussed, and addressed.”
They are a driving force for the rights of students with disabilities on our campus.
Isabelle Borduas, a third-year social work student and the current president of Delta Alpha Pi, said their members are concerned about getting to and from buildings due to lack of accessibility. This impacts those that use wheelchairs or other mobility aids because sometimes they are unable to get where they need to go on campus.
"We are very heavily staircase campus. I mean, even Close-Hipp, the initial entryway is stairs, the ramps are around the back. So you do have to go all the way around… elevators don't get fixed very fast when they do break. So that is a big concern,” Borduas said.
Ramps need to be easily seen and accessed, not be placed around the back of a building where other students wouldn’t know where to point out if asked. The signage for elevators sometimes is hard to find and if they are out of function, that could mean a student is now unable to attend a class.
Another point Borduas mentioned was that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to historic buildings on our campus unless they need to be renovated for another reason. This prevents the addition of accessibility ramps and other accommodations.
The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) is located in the Close-Hipp building on campus. The university website said the SDRC, “coordinates efforts to ensure that students with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations and serves as consultants to faculty, staff and campus partners.”
Kate Dominguez is the Student Disability Resource Coordinator at the SDRC. She said the university works to update ramps, add push buttons to entrances to open doors and provide assistive and adaptive transportation.
“If there is something you see, don't hesitate to let us know cause we can convey that information to the appropriate parties to evaluate things and help make change,” Dominguez said
At USC, members of the student senate are some of the people working to make these changes happen.
Second-year international relations student, Noah Glasgow, is the Chairman of the Student Life Committee for the student senate and a member who worked to pass a piece of legislation that created a secretary of disability services that comes into effect next term.
When asked about where our university could begin advancing disability accessibility on campus he spoke on how understaffed our SDRC currently is.
"They're actually operating at a 50% capacity, so they need 10 staff members, right now they have five... so I think that the university needs to 100% work on hiring staff," Glasgow said.
While the SDRC works to the best of their teams’ ability, they are just a single entity on this large campus. We are a student body estimated to be close to 34,700. Change happens when the student body bands together to raise awareness for an issue and expects more of our university.
While hiring staff may just be the beginning, it's steps like these that show the student body they are seen, heard and respected on our campus.