Poor Accessibility Brought Center Stage
Opinions, Editorials

Poor Accessibility Brought Center Stage

An article on the front page of Wednesday’s Boston Globe highlighted the issue of accessibility on the Boston College campus—specifically, the fact that BC will be subject to a federal and state inquiry into whether the institution violated laws regarding accessibility. Accessibility has been a problem that has continued to plague the University in recent years, sparking a number of student advocacy groups and events to address the rights of students with physical disabilities.

Before the start of the fall 2014 semester, several changes were implemented to address some problematic areas that proved particularly difficult for disabled students to navigate, such as the second floor of O’Neill Library around the atrium. Additional signage was put in place to more clearly denote disability-accessible routes, and a page was also added to the University’s website that compiled resources for individual’s disabilities.

Despite these somewhat tangible improvements, as well as the formation of the new Council for Students with Disabilities within the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s division of diversity and inclusion, more physical changes can be made to the BC campus to assist students with disabilities.

It is worth acknowledging the limitations that the University faces in significantly changing portions of campus—namely, that the campus is built into the side of a relatively steep hill. Furthermore, the integrity of several historical buildings, such as Bapst Library and its lobby comprised of several staircases, cannot, and should not, be dramatically compromised. It is reasonable that some specific areas of campus cannot be altered.

In general, however, BC seemingly has the financial ability to invest in more substantial improvements to make campus more accessible, especially in order to address the formal complaint that students filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in May 2013. The issues that surround the accessibility of the BC campus should not be news to anyone at the University, as they have been well documented and reported on for, at the very least, the last year. Those who believe that the problem of accessibility is just being brought to light now because of an official inquiry have likely just not been paying attention.

With The Globe report given prominent placement on the publication’s front page, the issue of accessibility at BC is being given plenty of publicity, which hopefully will push the University to take more aggressive action. It is commendable that the issue is receiving the attention it deserves, and this will hopefully contribute positively to the ongoing conversation between students, faculty, and administrators regarding accessibility.


Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff


February 19, 2015

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Poor Accessibility Brought Center Stage”

  1. Thanks to BC Heights editorial staff for another excellent article. The Boston Globe article was also excellent. However, the information given to the media by Jack Dunn and Attorney Joseph Herlihy is simply not based in fact. They claim that they have spent millions on improving existing accessibility? Maybe they can point out where this improvement is? The new walkways across the Quad have huge flights of stairs. Prior to this was walkways. They removed a wheelchair lift from the O’Neill Atrium in June 2014. There is no accessible route up these flights of stairs, main public access route from Maloney Hall to middle campus. The new door they placed at O’Neill Atrium is worse than the existing door, because it is locked after 10pm, leaving wheelchair users stranded in the middle landing with stairs. They painted some accessibility symbols in the parking. This is great. However, they are still refusing to acknowledge disabled parking placards and plates, telling people to park the furthest distance from parking. Richard Jefferson has denied his responsibility as the ADA/504 Coordinator. They need to know that it is not simply a title tagged onto the Director of Diversity. It is a position that is required by law, and that is not being fulfilled by BC. One need not go further than College Road to get to BC campus by wheelchair when they realize that the new flights of stairs behind Stokes is the only route, besides new construction. The automatic doors at Stokes have not been replaced with automatic door openers. The rear door of Bapst is not unlocked. It would be expected that after BC was cited by the MAAB and knew they were required to keep the wheelchair entrance open when the stair entrance was open, that they would comply. BC stated that they are religious and private, and do not need to follow the accessibility laws. Any receipt of federal funding requires for compliance. In addition, there is no waiver for violating building codes. The historic building argument does not work for BC, because the violations are due to new construction which has to be up to the 2013 and 2014 codes. It is not hills and historic buildings that is the problem at BC with discrimination. It is the attitude.

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