Essay on Accessibility Inequalities Resonates With Others

To the Editor:

Bravo to Ashley Shew for her effective actions and her essay, “The Long Way Around” (The Chronicle, September 17). Her experiences resonate with the rest of us who struggle to walk all the way around buildings to get inside, hoping that the blue button for the automatic door opener is working today, all the while knowing that then one must re-traverse the building’s entire length to get to the elevator at the far end, and if that is working then the many steps to an office or a rest room. Whew! Nor as Shew says are there as many signs as one might like — you have to know or be told that the handicapped rest room is way off yonder before going there to look for it. There are further catch-22s. Here at Cornell, the university will provide a ride between buildings to a faculty member on medical leave, but then they don’t want you on campus if you are on medical leave. On one such ride the driver dropped me off at the top of a flight of stairs (without a railing) that led down an incline to the ramp that goes up to the building’s entrance. Who designs such impossibilities? Don’t they realize that somebody who needs a ramp probably can’t go down the steps to get to it? Nor do requests for modifications lead to prompt action. It can take years to get improvements, since unidentified persons decide some requested changes are not a high enough priority…e.g. it took about five years here to get a railing down the front steps of the undergraduate library.

Maybe Shew should have a regular column in The Chronicle to shame these buildings and grounds people into more responsive actions.

Margaret W. Rossiter
Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History of Science Emerita
Cornell University
Ithaca, N.Y.

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