By Lauren Sibley
Who knew that you can do weight training not only at Wilson, but also on a routine walk to the BC? My friends and I discovered this one Friday night, as we were en route to the BC to grab a late-night Red Mango snack. Since one of my friends uses a motorized scooter, we typically take the circuitous accessible route around the back of the chapel. However, this time, we were determined to take the more direct route. The route with stairs. The two strongest of the group lifted my friend’s scooter (with her not on it!) and gingerly carried it down the stairs.
This doesn’t seem like a spectacular story and I apologize for not prefacing it as such. But, it strikes a chord with me and says something important about how we approach accessibility issues on campus.
Even the simplest of requests, such as trimming the bushes framing Marketplace so that the accessible ramp is visible, get stuck in the web of bureaucracy.
Efforts to push for requests like this are by no means futile. To make monumental, systematic change, to “move mountains” if you will, it is necessary to talk with Duke’s administration about accessibility issues. However, working with an administration of any kind requires a lot of energy and does not guarantee a tangible result.
For this reason, we cannot remain complacent while we push for significant change on campus. We, the student body, have a responsibility to take our own action toward creating a more accessible campus: small action, immediate action, tangible results. This is the best way we can stay engaged with accessibility issues while the powers-that-be work to create gradual large-scale change. We cannot ignore moving pebbles when trying to move mountains.
So, how do I suggest that we “move pebbles” and help our disabled peers overcome the obstacles that are found all over Duke’s campus? My answer is found in my unspectacular weightlifting story: carry your peers. I most certainly am not saying that every student should help physically carry their peers in wheelchairs, scooters, and crutches up and down every staircase on campus. Needless to say, that would be an unsafe and unreasonable request. However, each and every one of us can carry the accessibility issues that some of our peers deal with into more conversations at Duke. I invite you to create a campus-wide dialogue about accessibility issues. Without someone else telling me, I wouldn’t have noticed that Marketplace’s accessible entrance is hidden by bushes or that the Languages building doesn’t have an accessible entrance at all. I hope you won’t ignore the “pebbles” and be that “someone else” for somebody on campus.