The University of South Carolina is home to about 2,000 students with disabilities. Despite this, and despite the fact that it’s been 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act, parts of the campus still aren’t accessible.
As one student, Kathryn Simmons, points out, “A lot of people just go about their lives and they don’t even think about these things.” That’s why Simmons and six other students have come together to create an art display that demonstrates what an inaccessible campus means to them.
The display features photos of the campus’s accessibility issues alongside poems by the disabled students. One such photo shows Simmons climbing up a staircase with her rollator. Simmons has spina bifida and scoliosis. Climbing the stairs is a choice she makes. There is a ramp, but it’s so far off the main path it’s even more challenging for her than the stairs.
Other issues include extremely uneven sidewalks, hard to use handicapped parking spots, and the fact that campus dining halls don’t have a list of ingredients in the food, a serious problem for students with severe allergies. One of the reasons the campus has so many issues is it was built in the 1800s, when accessibility wasn’t a big concern and the disabled were often treated as second class citizens.
Simmons and her colleagues are hopeful that their display can lead to real change. According to the university’s Student Disability Service Director Karen Pettus, “I think there will be some meetings and discussions with different people on campus on ways we can improve. They have told me that… some of the sidewalks, some of the ramps, and things will be fixed.”