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A Creative Way to Address Accessibility Issues

Students taking the hill from the outside of the Beaman to the main lawn, Braden Simmons

Belmont isn’t easy to get around - with its steep inclines and broken pathways from various construction projects – especially for students with disabilities. 


Holly Smith, a disabled student, showcased this problem through a WELL Core event on Wednesday centered around showing the lack of accessibility on Belmont’s campus named “Wheelchair Wheel-Core.”  


The event had 60 students go around Belmont in wheelchairs to see what it's like to try and get around campus without walking. 

“The government says that I'm able to access everything here,” Smith said. “The reality is I can't it's not inclusive for me. It's not equitable.” 


Smith thought about putting on the event after her own issues with accessibility on campus and pitched the idea to Belmont organizations, including the office of Hope, Unity and Belonging, the office of Accessibility and Campus Security.  


“The thought process wasn't sympathy for wheelchair users and mobility-device users. I very specifically did not want to be like, ‘Look at me, I'm such an inspiration because I use a wheelchair and I face all this every day,’” Smith said. “Because the fact of the matter is, this is just me living my life.” 


Smith has seen firsthand the difficulties with accessibility on campus and wanted other students to become informed on the challenges found on-campus including rougher pathways, unclear signage and steep declines. 


“Sometimes I become wheelchair-bound due to complications with my disability. With Belmont's campus, I just have not been able to come to campus at all whenever I am in a wheelchair,” she said. 


The event had students take pathways from Belmont’s accessibility map that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and fulfill the legal requirements, but, as some noted, aren’t practically designed with disabled students in mind. 


“It was very eye-opening,” said senior audio engineering major Caleb Coston. “As we were nearing certain buildings, I was thinking ‘where are the ramps up for us?’ Most times there was a ramp but a lot of times it was kind of a little bit of a detour to get to it.” 


Some students hope that this isn’t where the discussions on accessibility end. 


“I'm hopeful,” said sophomore Luke Tudor. “What this event shows is that there are people on this campus who do care and are trying to allocate resources. But right now, this is the first major step is just raising awareness.” 


Belmont architects also attended to get feedback from students and improve future designs. 


“They heard about the event and they wanted to come so the intentionality behind that came straight from them,” Smith said. “They realized how inaccessible our campus was and when they heard about the event, they wanted to come and check it out and take a look at some areas that could really use some redesign.” 


Smith hopes this event is the start of Belmont addressing concerns and improving its accessibility efforts on campus. 


“The biggest thing that I hope people take away today is that ability is never guaranteed,” she said. “Tomorrow, we could be taking these routes ourselves. By noticing the things that are set in stone by looking at the ways that we can improve our campus, we can work together to become better advocates for accessibility.” 

This article was written by Braden Simmons

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