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Mobility barriers persist, spurs discourse

A Washburn Review staff member and two other students were on board the Henderson elevator last week when it suddenly stalled on the second floor.

One of the students was Deb Lamere, a sophomore anthropology major, who uses a manual wheelchair to get around campus.

“When we learned that she [Deb Lamere] had been stranded in Henderson, some people over here [in the military-student success center] told her that they would carry her and the wheelchair out of the building if she so wished,” said Washburn’s Military Transition Coordinator, Chris Bowers. 

The success center’s receptionist immediately sent over Student Veterans Club members Ryan Murphy, Thomas Davis and Austin Jasper.

“They were planning on carrying me down the stairs,” said Lamere.

Luckily, the elevator was reset by facilities services allowing the students to reach the first floor and exit the building. Lamere’s friends met her when the elevator doors opened – causing a sense of relief among the group.

Director of Facilities Services, Eric Just, provided an explanation for the elevator’s malfunction.

“We replaced a door operator in the Henderson elevator last week,” said Just in an email Tuesday. “This was initiated when the door did not shut properly with the individuals on board.”

Lamere shared that this isn’t the first time she’s struggled to get around campus.

“I’ve lost control and spilled out of my wheelchair – twice in one day actually,” said Lamere.

Uneven sidewalks, steep ramps, slick conditions, inadequate salt treatment, entryways and doorways all cause varying levels of difficulty for those who are disabled. Some of these mobility barriers have been proven culprits for Lamere on Washburn’s campus.

Austin Jasper, a nontraditional student and friend of Lamere’s, understands how limiting certain environments can be on disabled individuals.

“My father is quadriplegic, and it can be restricting at times,” said Jasper. “I lived in San Diego, and there were times when my father couldn’t access a restroom at a restaurant. He would have to go around the block to the Marriott hotel, use the restroom and come back.”

The conversation spurs discourse around campus and public accommodations.

“Washburn is a prestigious school, and it should be held to a high standard,” said Jasper. “Washburn does an excellent job, but it’s the small details that get overlooked.”

Another concern of Lamere’s is that of who controls the conversation when considering the basis of accommodations.

“This impacts a generally quieter community. It’s important to me to make sure everyone is accounted and accommodated for – not just myself,” said Lamere.

Students can submit barrier report forms. The forms are sent to Equal Opportunity Director, Pam Foster.

I receive and review the barrier report forms and determine the appropriate person they should go to in order to address the concern,” said Foster in an email Tuesday. “The form goes to several people [i.e. someone from IT, facilities, HR, Diversity and Inclusion, Tech] so if I’m unavailable, someone will be able to act in my absence.”

Foster continued later in the email and stated that facilities services also plays a role.

“If there is a barrier to program/activity access, facilities services will determine whether we are out of compliance with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.”

Facilities Director Just confirmed that facilities services personnel are responsible for checking and verifying areas of concern on campus.

Individuals can request that they reevaluate specific areas, room numbers, entrances and program/event spaces when they fill out a barrier report.

The Stoffer Science hall ramp has been added to the list for slope verification, per ADA regulations, as a result of this article.

This article can be accessed online at www.washburnreview.org for those interested in filling out a barrier report.

The Washburn Review team has decided to cover in detail, emergency evacuation procedures for the Henderson Learning Resources Center.

Edited by Adam White, Hannah Alleyne, Jason Morrison

Editor's note: This article previously stated that three members of the VA assisted Deb Lamere. The article has been updated with the correct information that the three students are a part of the Student Veterans Club.

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