Accommodating everyday struggles

Jennie Torres

Students may often complain about their struggles living on campus however, for senior Political Science major and Student Government Association President Joseph Mullaney, everyday can be a struggle.

Mullaney is a student who is diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a muscular disease that affects things like speech, balance, hand-eye coordination, vision and produces fatigue. It is because of this condition that Mullaney was able to receive medical accommodations from the Office of Student Accessibility while he lived on campus.

Director of the Office of Student Accessibility Matt Cooper said the purpose of the department is to advocate for students who have disclosed that they have the need for academic or programmatic accommodations like housing and dining under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA].

“You would need documentation that explains what the condition is and have a history of such limitations for major life activities, and once we have that, then we can try to provide the reasonable accommodation in the program or class,” Cooper said.

Depending on the condition a student may have, Cooper said the Office of Student Accessibility can redesign class schedules or have Department of Public Safety pick up students on the Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses to drive them to their locations.

Yet even with the assistance, Mullaney still faced some difficult situations, with one of them involving student housing.

“I had many friends in Hill that I couldn’t get to without them carrying me, like piggy back, which we did, but I felt bad doing it because I’m putting them in danger almost in a place they shouldn’t have to be in,” Mullaney said.

Mullaney said this scenario also occurred when he would visit friends in the Village residence halls. He found this to be tough and limiting to him, but without his friends often visiting him at his dorm, the situation would have felt more challenging.

Cooper said that whenever the university creates a new building or adds updates to one, they have to be compliant under the ADA for access.

“If we are rebuilding a part of a building or residential hall, we want to make sure that the building has the appropriate ADA recommended bathrooms,” Cooper said.

Aside from housing, Mullaney said he also came across some issues with the reliability of the handicap buttons on campus.

“The handicap buttons are in front of pretty much every door, they just open the door if you press the button,” Mullaney said. “Most work a lot of the time, but some don’t, and it’s definitely frustrating when they don’t.”

Mullaney said that despite the problems, they have never truly hindered his experience at the university.

“I just tell Keith Woodward or Facilities [the handicap buttons are] not working and they quickly take care of it,” Mullaney said.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Operations Keith Woodward said over the years the department has made numerous accommodations for students that included changing residence hall room assignments, meeting with the students’ parents before their first year and assisting with parking locations.

“Between the Office of Student Accessibility, Residential Life and Facilities Operations, the communication and collaboration are extraordinary when we are helping students with access issues feel comfortable with each physical campus,” Woodward said in a statement.

Mullaney said no matter what obstacles he encountered, overall he has still had a great time living at the university.

“My dorm was Mountainview freshman year and Mountainview is incredible with handicapped stuff, so my bathroom, my shower, everything was all set,” Mullaney said. “They knew I was there and that I needed extra attention, especially with snowfall and all of that. They were very good about shoveling and plowing.”

Mullaney suggests for the university to add more accessible sophomore dorms, and be careful with shoveling in the winter.

“Just be aware that when you’re shoveling or when you’re clearing a walkway or pathway, you never know who’s going down that,” Mullaney said.