Access Lasell brings awareness to accessibility issues

By Samantha Vega Torres & Nico Manganiello – 1851 Contributors

A set of stairs and no elevators separate students from the dining hall to essential offices such as health services, residential life, and the career center. Photo by Nico Manganiello

Nick Shelley (‘21) is working to improve accessibility on campus through his project Access Lasell. The program is the Lasell chapter of the Campus Access Network, which Shelley describes as a “network of students rallying for disability and rallying for radical change [on their campuses].”

“Freshman through junior year I was not in a wheelchair, I was able-bodied. I walked around campus and Lasell was the ideal school for me, it was perfect,” Shelley said. “I didn’t have any problems, but then when I came back after my injury, I just couldn’t…I couldn’t get into some of these rooms. I can’t even get in my classroom, I can’t even pull up to the desk, I can’t go up any of the hills at all.”

During the connected learning symposium in the fall of last semester, Shelley made a video to illustrate the lack of accessibility on campus for students and faculty with physical disabilities. 

“We floated the idea of a video and it just took off from there,” said Shelley. “So immediately Eric Turner came to me and he said that things will get done… I had actually invited the Senior Management Team to the viewing of the video. They kind of got grilled a little bit.. and they took it seriously.”

Associate Vice President of Plant Operations, Diane Parker, invited Shelley to join a committee called the Accessibility Improvement Team that will be working on the accessibility issue on campus. One of Shelley’s main short-term goals is to have the university install more automatic door buttons on campus. 

“We’ll definitely be working on getting actual stuff happening because door buttons are really cheap and should be installed. There’s no excuse at this point,” Shelley said. 

Senior Director of Academic Support, Technology and Accessibility Dolores Radlo says door buttons are being looked into by the Accessibility Improvement Team. “Diane Parker and the team had discussed the next steps in terms of the buttons and taking a look at the issues that Nick’s video brought up, using that as a starting framework…a checklist of the different buttons that need to be installed or replaced,” Radlo said. Radlo stated that this was a problem that should be short-term, and would like to put together a feasible plan to fix it. 

The elevator in East residence hall has been out of operation since last semester. Photo by Nico Manganiello

A more long-term idea Shelley had for accessibility on campus is more elevators, specifically in the Edwards Student Center where Shelley had to find alternatives when his Personal Care Attendant (PCA) was unable to get him up for a COVID-19 test.

  “I think an outdoor elevator would fit perfectly where that winding stone staircase on the side of Edwards is that would bring us up three or four levels, even with a tunnel there that could poke out towards the STC and that can connect the whole campus on a flat level surface,” Shelley said.

Radlo says the accessibility to Edwards is one of the most pressing topics the team has discussed. “We started talking about what kinds of options are there, whether or not it’s large scale, expensive construction, or whether or not it makes sense to recommend relocating some of the most critical offices, people, [and] resources that students access day to day,” Radlo said. “So that was definitely a topic of conversation with a very complex but urgent need to figure out what the next steps might be for that, because there’s definitely accessibility challenges within that building.”

Radlo believes those in power are committed to seeing change moving forward. “I think that the Board of Trustees, the administration of the institution are very committed to seeing change. I do. I think that [Shelly’s] video definitely brought immediate awareness. I do know that over time, there has increasingly been greater awareness and greater urgency,” Radlo said. 

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