Op-Ed: It’s All Here, But Not When It Comes to Accessibility

By Claudia Habrahamshon, Contributing Writer

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Illustration by Claudia Habrahamshon
Illustration by Claudia Habrahamshon

Montclair State University prides itself in diversity. The campus is always being renovated and updated in order to keep up with the ever-changing and developing world around us. However, even with all the newly-constructed buildings and fancy technological gadgets, how inclusive is our campus to people who have disabilities?

I would like to preface by saying that disability is an extremely broad term. Disability can come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes cannot even be seen. For the purpose of talking about accessibility on campus, I will be referring mostly to physical disabilities.

Have you ever thought about how someone who is blind navigates through our campus? Someone who is deaf? Someone who uses a wheelchair? Someone who has any sort of physical impairment that makes them unable to operate the way the people for whom the campus was built for can? Think about that for a moment.

There are people for whom the campus of Montclair State has been built. These people include what many people in the disabled community would call “able-bodied” people. The ramps, the alternate walkways, the Braille on the classroom signs—these have all been added in an effort to make the campus accessible for people who are disabled—thus making it inclusive for all people.

Stairs are for people who can walk. Signs are for people who can see. Verbal announcements are for people who can hear. All these things are considered the norm. So what about the people who lack these functions? If someone cannot go up stairs, should they have no choice but to take an alternate, inconvenient route to get to a ramp or elevator? If an elevator is broken, is that person supposed to skip class? If someone cannot see a sign that says “construction zone ahead, choose alternate route,” should that person be put in danger for not being aware? Are these people that

I’ve mentioned considered less important than able-bodied people?

I would expect that most people reading that question are shaking their heads no, of course not. However, why has our campus been built with the able-bodied people in mind, leaving the disabled people to be an afterthought?

Montclair State University claims to have it all, but that is definitely not the case when it comes to accessibility for those with disabilities. As the university continues to update and renovate, it is important to keep in mind the well-being of all students. While Montclair State is far from the worst in terms of accessibility, there is still a great deal of work to be completed in order for each and every student to feel at home.

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