Editorial: Accessibility should be the standard
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 00:10
The University of New Hampshire is accepting and accommodating, establishing programs and providing assistance for students with disabilities. A few examples of such were featured in two different articles in this issue; the new student organization, Eyes Open, was recently created to raise awareness and make the campus more accessible for those with disabilities. And the Office of the Registrar and the office of Disability Services for Students cooperate to switch classrooms for any students who cannot access the originally selected room.
However, the fact that any classes need to be rearranged in order for a student to attend them because they are not fully accessible for every student on campus should be shocking. While the university has clearly established protocols to address these problems when such situations arise, these situations should not arise; all buildings on campus should be accessible to all.
The university has addressed that this is a problem and established it as a priority. Hamilton Smith Hall – an academic building without even an elevator – has been at the top of the priority list of projects for the past five or six years, according to today’s front page article about the frequently used but outdated building. Currently, the project is slated for the 2016-2017 fiscal year and to possibly begin in 2015; however, another two or more years is a long period to wait.
In that time – and in the many years past – thousands of students will pass through this historic building at the center of campus. Because English 401 is a required class, almost all students will set foot in this building. A class in Hamilton Smith may be unavoidable, but concern about accessing class should be avoidable. Students should only have to worry about the class itself and the accompanying coursework, and not if physically attending it will pose a problem.
While finances are undoubtedly the reason why these necessary renovations have yet to be started, the fact that the university has gone so long without fully accessible classrooms and buildings is still problematic. Finances may be tight, but this nearly 100-year-old building should have been majorly renovated more recently than 1965, as the article cites.
Despite the many financial issues that the university has recently seen – including the significant cut in funding of nearly 50 percent for the state that was already last in funding in the nation – the university should maintain its deadline for updating this building. While the building certainly deserves updates for structural and technological reasons, it deserves updates solely for the reason of being fully accessible to all students, staff, faculty and visitors.