Click here for updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation at Rice
Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Friday, December 03, 2021 — Houston, TX °

Improving accessibility requires creative solutions

By Thresher Editorial Board     12/3/19 9:44pm

Ask any Rice student why they chose this university, and they might say they were excited about the residential college system, the small class sizes or even Beer Bike. But every student is ultimately here to get an education, and most of us are privileged enough to take that for granted.

A student should never have to change their major because their classrooms are inaccessible to them, like Shane DiGiovanna did (p. 1). If students can’t even reach their classroom due to a physical disability, their university has already failed to provide students with what they are here for: an education.

While some issues with accessibility on campus are clear, like the lack of an accessible entrance to rooms at the current Sid Richardson College building and the old building at Hanszen College, other issues are often afterthoughts for able-bodied students, such as the stairs leading to the second floor of Herzstein Hall. When complaining about how annoying it is to walk through the grove at the south colleges when it rains, consider how it feels to try and navigate through mud for students who use a wheelchair. Even less apparent on campus are hidden disabilities, such as epilepsy and ADHD, that are hard to disclose and seek assistance for, given the stigma surrounding mental and neurological illnesses and the tendency to pass judgment on appearance.  



Though we might meet legal standards (and an ongoing case against Rice might show we haven’t even done that), we should strive to go beyond the legalese for students with disabilities. The administration, faculty and fellow students should be proactive about accommodations for students rather than waiting to fix a problem after it becomes a legal issue. While it’s difficult to update hundred-year-old buildings, classrooms, lab spaces and offices should be rearranged to ensure that all students have access to every class. Last year, ramps were added to Herzstein Hall, showing that spaces can be modified to be more inclusive. The university should continue to increase accessibility — not just to meet legal standards, but to provide necessary support all of its students.

Additionally, student leaders should continue to make college activities available to everyone and inclusive of differing levels of ability and uphold the culture of care. The residential colleges are a place where students can find community and feel welcome, especially when the infrastructure of campus can make other places on campus feel closed off to them. Students should also be more aware of hidden disabilities on campus and consider how their rhetoric can impact others. Given that most of our campus is able-bodied, students with that privilege should leverage it to bring awareness and assistance to accessibility issues that remain on campus.



More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 11/30/21 11:19pm
We need proactive academic policies

We’re nearing the end of another semester in the COVID-19 pandemic, filled with policy changes requiring flexibility from administration, faculty and students alike. We appreciate the administration’s responsiveness to the evolving pandemic, but the continuous changes are not without consequences. This semester has been hard on many students’ mental health due to insufficient academic accommodations on top of pandemic-related stress. While we understand the necessity in being flexible with COVID policies due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, administration and professors should recognize the impact this has on students and their mental health, and be proactive in accounting for this.

OPINION 11/16/21 11:10pm
It’s time to talk about Willy

Last week, the Board of Trustees announced that Reginald DesRoches, Rice’s current provost, will be the next president of Rice University. DesRoches will be the eighth president in the history of the university, and the first person of color and foreign-born person to hold the position. We applaud the Board’s selection of DesRoches, and wish him great success in his new role. But because there are seven months left before the beginning of his tenure, we would like to pen one of our final editorials to President David Leebron and the Board of Directors. It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite subject — one that has found itself in our news section repeatedly — the statue of one William Marsh Rice. 

OPINION 11/2/21 11:10pm
ImagineOne issues are disastrous; they should be addressed now

Since it was implemented this past summer, nearly everyone on campus has been affected in one way or another by the new ImagineOne human resources and finance system. Undergraduate students in charge of organizations are having to literally guess at their budgets and hope that they are spending within their limits. Additionally, graduate students were having issues receiving their paychecks, and faculty could not find their research funds without specific coaching.


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.