University responds to accessibility concerns over construction-related detour paths
This past weekend, an anonymous person posted flyers in the Leavey Center stairwell, Henle Village, and Village A, protesting that certain paths on campus are “difficult to traverse for some of your friends and fellow Hoyas.”
When asked for a response to these posters, Robin Morey, vice president for planning and facilities management, told Vox that the University will make “reasonable accessibility improvements” to its construction sites and across campus.
“Our team has thoughtfully considered the impact of construction on accessibility issues by designing and constructing safe and appropriate pedestrian pathways, curb cuts and ensuring ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] access to facilities,” he wrote in an email to Vox. “We have received feedback suggesting improvements along the new pedestrian pathways such [as] increasing widths and adding lighting and our team is implementing such recommendations accordingly.”
The stairwell by Vital Vittles, which now serves as a makeshift entrance and exit to the Leavey Center, and where Vox first learned of the existence of these flyers, is not a viable solution for those who require an elevator into and out of the building. Previously, they could make use of an elevator built into the overhead bridge connected to the Leavey Center, but the Northeast Triangle’s construction necessitated the closure of that bridge.
Morey indicated that Regent Hall’s east and south entrances, which eventually connect to the Leavey Center at Sellinger Lounge, or the Leavey Hotel entrance by the University hospital, are accessible alternatives, but the University has, thus far, not provided a new, accessible entrance into Leavey as a result of the construction on campus.
At the time of publishing, no person or organization has stepped up to claim responsibility for these flyers.
“I do not know who it is that is doing it, but I am fully in support of this person or this group of people’s efforts,” Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a disability rights advocate and GUSA undersecretary for disability affairs, said in an interview with Vox.
According to Brown, most students might be mildly frustrated or confused by the current campus construction, but the posters make them aware of the barriers the current arrangements and, more widely, the design of Georgetown’s campus, pose to those with physical disabilities.
“Exactly what pathways are open or closed is constantly changing. There are occasionally announcements sent out to campus, but even those announcements are not consistent. They’re not consistently sent,” she said. “There are very few pathways that are open to students who have physical disabilities to be able to access the other side of campus.”
Going forward, Brown believes that the University needs to have a cultural shift towards proactively accommodating people with disabilities. She recalled that a month ago, both elevators in Copley Hall broke down, and all the disabled students there were forced to spend the night at New South Hall. The Healey Family Student Center also opened without power doors installed for disabled individuals to enter and exit.
“If we truly value diversity and inclusion, if we truly value a campus community that is welcoming of all kinds of people … then we have to reconsider what are our priorities,” she said. “What are we really prioritizing when the only reason we’re building a ramp is so we won’t get sued?”
Additional reporting by Lara Fishbane.
Photo: Andrew Sullivan/Vox Populi