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Concerns arise over campus accessibility

by Shelby Toth - Staff Writer
Tue, Nov 12th 2019 09:00 pm
Following some discussion on a Facebook group for Brockport parents, one man pointed out the Blue Light System on campus is not necessarily accessible to every student, especially to those with mobility impairments.
Following some discussion on a Facebook group for Brockport parents, one man pointed out the Blue Light System on campus is not necessarily accessible to every student, especially to those with mobility impairments.

A recent post on the Parents of Brockport Students’ Facebook page raised concerns over the accessibility of the Blue Light System on campus for those with mobility impairments. While The College at Brockport has previously implemented ways to navigate around that particular obstacle, accessibility during emergency situations is an issue that is not often discussed on campus. 

On Sunday, Oct. 13, user David Santeramo took to the public Facebook group Parents of Brockport Students to express concern about a potential danger to students with disabilities.

 “Was on campus today and noticed the blue light poles that dot Brockport,” Santeramo wrote. “Then I noticed something rather interesting. How is a student that is mobility impaired supposed to get to the pole in case of emergency? The pole is on the grass and nowhere near the height for a student that is in a wheelchair?”

 Santeramo also went on to say that students with visual and hearing impairments are unable to use the Blue Light System, ending with a call that the college should ensure all students on campus receive equal “safeguards” on campus.

According to Director of Communications for the college John Follaco, the newly introduced RAVE Guardian app is a way to access the abilities of the Blue Light System from anywhere on college property via their cell phone. The app was introduced to students in the fall and was heavily pushed from the get-go.

 “With the touch of a button, students can reach emergency responders while also sharing their location,” Follaco said. “...This is an incredibly valuable resource to all of our students, including those who are [mobility impaired].”

 Most of the resources on the app that would be used in emergency situations are call-based, making it difficult for students with hearing impairments to utilize those features. There is no way to text University Police’s (UP) emergency line inside or outside of the app.

 However, there is the ability within RAVE Guardian to enable “safety timers.” The timer allows users to have friends, family or campus security monitor their location and get an alert if that person does not check in within a certain amount of time.

 As far as addressing the original Facebook post, the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) Committee on Accessibility will be discussing the topic during its next meeting. According to Committee Chair Jessica Sniatecki, the college still has room to improve.

 “I believe that [support for people with disabilities in case of emergency] is an area where we can improve,” Sniatecki said. “As we work to make our college more inclusive for people with disabilities, emergency procedures is an essential area of consideration.”

 The current policy recommends any individual to create a pre-plan with Student Accessibility Services, Human Resources, UP or the Environmental Health and Safety Office. Brockport’s evacuation plan of non-residential buildings for people with disabilities that would need assistance evacuating in an emergency states “the college cannot guarantee that aid will be available during an evacuation, so the individual must be prepared to evacuate as best they can unassisted” and “if previous arrangements have not been made, a disabled person should request help from others in the area in order to exit the building.”

Otherwise, those with disabilities that would prevent them from exiting a building via stairwells should go to the building’s designated area of refuge and use a phone if available to contact emergency services.

 As far as every day accessibility, student opinions are mixed on whether Brockport is a fully accommodating campus. Facebook user and student Peter Rifenburg has had a positive experience on campus, explaining he’s found other members of campus to be helpful.

 “As a visually impaired student myself I like it at Brockport,” Rifenburg wrote. “My only concern is there’s no (or very little) accessibility to the blue light system outside the RAVE app. But overall Brockport is nice, flat with curbs for cane users and almost everything is braided and there’s plenty of the workers willing to assist everyone who needs help.”

 Glynnis Santeramo, another student user commented, described her negative experiences with the college while using a wheelchair.

 “…I was the girl whose wheelchair’s front wheel aka a caster got stuck in a crack getting down a ramp,” Santeramo wrote. “The maintenance workers once told me they cannot fix any problems on campus until somebody gets hurt. So they fixed that ramp. Most of the push buttons do not work on campus or some buildings just don’t have them. Doorways are too small for [my] wheelchair sometimes to fit through without scraping my knuckles.”

 Santeramo went on to explain she also has stopped going to dining halls on campus, as she is unable to get food herself while in a wheelchair and feels like a “bother.”

 As Brockport continues to strive toward being an accessible and inclusive campus, feedback from its constituents is important for helping to identify areas to improve in. For more information on student accessibility services, those interested can visit brockport.edu/life/accessibility_services/.

 

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