Students call for better elevator access

by Laura King / Beacon Staff • February 5, 2015

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After students with disabilities voiced their concerns that access to the second floor of the Little Building was limited, the college installed elevator call buttons on the first floor and better railings for the stairs between the floors.

Mary Kate McGrath, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major, said she first mentioned the elevators’ inaccessibility to the Disability Services Office in the fall. 

McGrath, who has a physical disability, said accessing the Little Building was frustrating before the installment of the elevator button because she had to ask the desk assistant at the Securitas desk to call for the elevator whenever she needed to use it. 

“It’s nice to not have to ask them to call now,” said McGrath, who lives in the Little Building. 

She recounted having to call a friend to help get her things up to the second floor after Thanksgiving last year.

“I asked to use the elevator, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s broken.’ 

Even though it was very obviously not broken,” said McGrath.

Diane Paxton, director of the Disability Services Office, said she sent a request for elevator call buttons to Jay Phillips, associate vice president for facilities and campus services.

Mia Zarella, a freshman journalism major and Beacon correspondent, also went to Paxton with this issue while she was healing from an injury. 

The college hired an elevator contractor to install the new elevator system over winter break in response to these complaints, according to Phillips. He said there are barriers set up in the lobby to make sure that students tap in with their Emerson ID cards at the security desk first, before calling an elevator.

“Anyone who has a requirement to use an elevator, whether they’re disabled or not, it shouldn’t be that they have to do anything that’s drastically different from anyone else,” said Phillips.

This issue is unique to the Little Building. All other residence hall or campus building elevators are immediately accessible to everyone, according to Phillips. Once students, faculty, or staff tap in, they can access the elevators on the first floor. 

“When we do the renovation of the Little Building [in 2015], we’re going to be able to address the entire elevator system on a comprehensive level,” said Phillips. “We made this modification as a short-term solution.”

McGrath also voiced her complaints to Paxton about railings in the Little Building stairway from the first to second floor. Paxton said the antique railing was too wide for students to properly grip, so new wrought-iron railings were installed in September. 

“It had to be custom-made, because it fits with the wrought iron that’s already there,” said Paxton. “You probably haven’t even noticed that it’s there.”

The Disability Services Office is planning on getting more involved in raising awareness on campus this semester, Paxton said. A mentoring program for students who would like support their peers with disabilities in getting acclimated to social life at Emerson is in the works, according to Paxton.

Paxton also said she would like for an event that brought in therapy dogs at the end of semester—organized by the Disability Services Office and Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services—to be a recurring program at the college.