Campus News

Accessibility Walk Calls Attention to Difficulties Faced by People with Disabilities

Story posted April 30, 2002

A parade of students in wheelchairs and on crutches made their way across campus Tuesday in an effort to draw attention to accessibility issues on campus.

About 20 people took part in the “accessibility walk.” Participants traveled to the chapel, where they learned a wheelchair wouldn’t fit in the bathroom, and through several other obstacles before heading back to the Health Center, which lacks wheelchair ramps.

“Many of you may have thought about access for disabled on this campus before. For others today may be an eye opening experience,” said Joann Canning, Director of Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. “After all in a time when a person in a wheelchair can climb a mountain and explore the depths of the ocean, buildings, stairs, and doors should not be the obstacles that prevent inclusion.”

The walk was sponsored by FORWARD, a student group that promotes awareness of disabilities, and Team Zhara (a campaign in the mock congressional election). Zhara Malstedt ’02 first became aware of accessibility issues when she was injured in a car accident after her sophomore year at Bowdoin. She was in a wheelchair, then returned to campus on crutches. She has made accessibility one of the issues in her campaign. Many of those speaking Tuesday also became interested in the issue because of a personal experience or the experiences of friends and family members.

“This is an opportunity to make things better,” said Scott Jamieson ’02. During the fall semester he made a video to highlight accessibility issues as part of an independent study project. The college has made great strides toward accessibility in recent years, he said, and the accessibility walk was meant to demonstrate that continued improvement is still needed.

President Barry Mills applauded the students for their efforts to make the College community aware of the issue. Bowdoin’s beautiful, historic buildings are an asset to the campus, he said, but they present the College with the challenge of making them accessible to all people. He assured the students that the trustees and administration keep accessibility issues in mind when planning building and renovation projects.

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