Conversations about accessibility allow student concerns to be heard

Jessica Regan

Students expressed frustration over accessibility issues, such as bumpy terrain on the Speedway Mall, at an open forum discussion hosted by Services for Students with Disabilities and Student Government on Wednesday.

Staff from a number of UT departments were in the Texas Union to answer questions directly from students, who shared challenges often unforeseen by those without disabilities.

Linguistics graduate student Laura Faircloth uses a wheelchair and said she often finds it hard to get around campus.

“The construction makes everything very difficult,” Faircloth said. “There’s also not enough handicap parking spaces.”

Leading up to the event, students submitted questions online to be answered by the panel. Topics included lack of wheelchair access at the Union Theatre and registration for those needing assistance from the SSD Office.

Civil engineering sophomore Breanne Alsobrook said she attended the event to ask a question on behalf of her volunteer organization, Best Buddies. The international organization has a UT chapter and works one-on-one with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“The Best Buddies had an advocacy event that had a speaker with an electric wheelchair, and they couldn’t get up the stage at the Union Theatre,” Alsobrook said. “I think the University needs to get more funding so we can fix the older buildings to fit (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations.”

Another question submitted online regarded the uneven surface created by the Speedway brick relaying, which makes it harder for those in wheelchairs and using white canes to get around campus. Deputy ADA Coordinator Stephanie Myers said her division has worked with the construction company in the relaying of the bricks.

“We went out and visited Speedway, looked at problem areas and talked to crews about laying (bricks) evenly,” Myers said. “It’s a slip-resistant surface. … We are keeping an eye while it’s undergoing construction to ensure the end result is beneficial to everyone.”

Faircloth said discussions like these can bring attention to things that should be accessible but currently are not.

“Sometimes things don’t occur to certain people that might be a problem,” Faircloth said.

Alsobrook said these discussions ensure everyone’s point of view is represented.

“The discussions allow many people to express their opinions on what needs to be done,” Alsobrook said. “More panels like this will be beneficial.”

Another discussion is planned for March 29 in the Sinclair Room from 4–5 p.m.