Updated: Oct 25
Broken sidewalks and redirected traffic are making Belmont University more challenging to get around for students, and they’re highlighting continued issues with accessibility for some.
“I don't think it's great. I think it exists,” said Savannah Bensing, president of Belmont Disabled Students Union.
Belmont has continued to expand its campus this fall with construction zones for the new medical school, a second residence hall on Caldwell Avenue and the renovation of the Vince Gill Room. But, these projects have exacerbated accessibility on campus.
Bensing has dysautonomia, a disorder that makes it difficult for her to do physically demanding tasks such as walking up the steep hill to her dorm on the upperclass side of campus or going longer distances to avoid the construction.
She said the university could improve its accessibility by being more mindful when creating accessible pathways.
“You can get ramps, and stuff to smoothly cover up that stuff for really cheap. So I don't really understand why Belmont just doesn't do that, because it's pretty simple, they're temporary,” she said.
She said these improvements should be a starting point for improving accessibility for students with disabilities, and more generally for other aspects of campus as well.
Bella Marquez, the vice president of DSU, has also had difficulties navigating campus.
Marquez has fibromyalgia and has to pace how much energy she exerts throughout the day. Because she often uses a cane, the construction has made it more complicated to get from her dorm in Caldwell Hall to class.
“It's definitely been difficult. I personally drive to a lot of my classes,” she said. “It definitely makes my life just a little more complicated just because now I've got to reconfigure, what am I going to do because I do rely heavily on my car.”
The Office of Accessibility has been communicating with Facilities Management Services to assist students who have been having issues during this construction period.
Madyson Repaskey, an accessibility services coordinator, works with other offices across campus including FMS and Residence Life to assist students who need accommodations.
“Our main scope is to help with those accommodation practices,” she said. “So, the biggest thing that we're going to focus on right now is making sure our name’s out there. We have found that just a lot of students don't know we exist.”
The office does not directly work on concerns with physical problems caused by the construction. It does work alongside FMS to help solve their problem, she said.
“We do have a good partnership with them and we reach out to them when we need assistance when somethings come up,” Repaskey said.
Marquez said that Belmont does a good job addressing some concerns for these students but could improve their practices going forward.
“I think the biggest thing would be to just actually talk to the disabled students on campus or students who need that accessibility and be like what's actually necessary to make this really accessible?” she said.
This article was written by Braden Simmons