Response to Sept. 30 Our View titled “Are. You. SERIOUS?”

Marybeth Cieplinski

Good opinion piece, guys, with some great arguments against the new clock-tower-bowling-lawn design outside the Student Center. But you missed a major point against it: lack of access for students with disabilities.

Oh, sure, someone in a wheelchair would probably have a great time motoring down the charming pathways on a beautiful autumn day like today. But what about in the pouring rain? Or with snow and sleet blowing down the wind tunnel that is the Student Center? KSU has made a lot of noise about inclusion over the past few years, but I don’t see any evidence of that with this project. The library is probably the one building on campus that 90 percent of students will enter at least once during their college years. Yet the closest “free” handicapped parking spots (for those with a parking pass) are not only behind the library, but all the way behind it. The majority of wheelchair users most likely take the Student Accessibility Services bus from place to place, but that means they get dropped off at the Kiva bus shelter, which is even farther away from the library entrance. How do I know this? Because I’ve just spent a month hobbling around campus with a black plastic-and-canvas walking boot strapped to my lower left leg. Step. Wobble-hop. Step. Wobble-hop. That’s less than two feet at a time. I went nowhere quickly, and any amount of walking took twice as long as usual. But I didn’t have a choice, and neither does someone who needs a wheelchair to get around.

I’m sure the new lawn will be a fitting, lovely tribute to the glory of KSU, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big selling point with the parents of disabled students. If Kent is really committed to inclusion, they’ll have to do better than this. I’ve heard through the grapevine that KSU isn’t seen as a handicapped-friendly school, and this project does nothing to dispel that rumor.

I wasn’t surprised by this lack of consideration, but I was disappointed. From President Lefton’s very first speech posted to the university website (ironically about the university’s commitment to inclusion) it was clear that he is sincere about being more inclusive, but apparently doesn’t know how to go about it. The video of the speech wasn’t closed-captioned for the deaf, nor did it have an ASL interpreter on-screen, making it totally inaccessible to KSU’s deaf students and faculty.

I’d like to issue a challenge to Mr. Lefton, Mr. Euclide and Mr. Bruder: walk a mile in my shoes. Or just walk from a handicapped parking spot to the library. In the rain. When it’s 40 degrees or colder. And windy. Get some crutches and try it. Or borrow a wheelchair. Heck, I’ll even let you have my boot.

Marybeth Cieplinski is a senior English major and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].