Accessibility concerns raised at hearing

By Michael Berg

Many concerns about handicapped accessibility at NIU were raised Monday at an open hearing held by the Presidential Commission on Persons With Disabilities.

About 20 people attended the hearings, which provided a chance for the public to offer suggestions involving disability issues on campus. “The purpose of the open hearings is to gather information that will be used in establishing priorities for the Commission,” said Commission Chairman Gary Gresholdt.

One issue raised by NIU staff member Andy Flodin was the lack of adequate parking at Chick Evans Field House. He said there are only three handicapped parking spaces there and about four or five people who use wheelchairs at big events.

NIU student Colin Kelly addressed access to the Holmes Student Center. “Someone who can’t climb stairs has to come around to the bus entrance which seems like no big deal, but if it’s raining out, it puts a kind of damper on things,” he said.

University Legal Counsel George Shur said when disabled individuals try to enter the student center on the east side (Normal Road), there is no access and there is also no symbol to direct someone to the west side, where there is access.

“In the elevators in the student center, there are no hand rails,” said student John Temple. This makes it difficult for some handicapped people to stand up when the elevator is going up, he said.

An EPSE 200 student said Cole Hall has no bathroom access, and a handicapped individual must go to the library or DuSable if they need to use a washroom.

Another concern raised was the fact that the elevator in Neptune Hall only goes up two of the four floors.

Rick Dearborn, the assistant director of Affirmative Action, brought up the editorial run in The Northern Star Jan. 28, about “individuals with disabilities taking up all university resources.” Dearborn thought that it “was really great that there was a whole page directed towards that one issue,” when one day the letters to the editor section was all about that editorial. He asked if this may indicate that people feel there’s a lack of sensitivity on the campus as a whole concerning disability access.

“I don’t think it’s a lack of sensitivity, but merely ignorance,” the EPSE 200 student said. The budgets are separate. You can’t take away from one and add to the other. It was an issue merely created by the Star’s editorial staff, he said.

NIU student Terry Bauers brought up the curb cuts on Main Street in front of Swen Parson Hall and the lack of consideration for people with disabilities in their construction.

“Those are city of DeKalb streets,” Shur said. “The university does not install curb cuts (on city streets).”

“We (the commission) can have an impact on how NIU treats these difficulties,” Shur said. “We have no impact on what the city of Dekalb does or DeKalb businesses. What concerns everybody (at the hearing) is the experience which a student or faculty member has living in the community.”