Accessibility an issue at Union
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05
Richard Boehler underwent a knee replacement surgery in 2005, but when his new knee got infected it had to be removed. The incident left him disabled.
Boehler, 53, is now a senior mechanical engineering major and travels across campus in his automatic wheelchair. When he reaches the stairs that lead up to the Union Breezeway he stops and glances up in hopes that one day he may make his way to the top.
“What I’d like to see before I graduate from UTEP would be for the university to implement a wheel chair accessible ramp at the south end of the Union, right between the east and the west wing,” Boehler said.
The south end of the Union, which parallels University Avenue, is the most frequented access point by students to enter the Union East and Union West, but students with disabilities are forced to travel the length of the building in order to enter through the east end’s disabled entrance.
“There are times when my buddies and I are coming from the engineering building and we want to grab a bite to eat at the Union and discuss the homework,” Boehler said. “When we reach the stairs I tell them to go ahead and that I’ll meet them upstairs, I have to go enter through the far-east end.”
Gregory McNicol, assistant vice president of the university’s Facility Services, said that as part of the Master Plan the university is going to replace both the Union East and West buildings for much nicer buildings.
“When we do a major renovation to Union West in the future, that’s when it would be appropriate to address this project,” McNicol said. “That’s when you correct it—if there is a major renovation done then we have to bring it into (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance.”
Boehler doesn’t agree that the Master Plan will accommodate students.
“When I first heard about the transformation, I looked at the Master Plan online and became very concerned that there was no mention, and what seemed to be no consideration, dealing with students with disabilities,” he said.
Students with disabilities frequent the Union building on a daily basis because the Center for Accommodation and Student Support is located in Union Building East.
Nicole Coleman, freshman psychology major, said she spends about 75 percent of her time at the Union—she operates in an automotive wheel chair.
“This is a concern that we’ve been trying to shine light on since 2008,” Coleman said.
Coleman is an active member of the Miner Diamonds, an organization that advocates for students with disabilities, and believes that a ramp on the south end of the Union would grant them an equal entrance and makes it much easier to access.
Chris James, freshman chemistry major, agrees that a ramp on the south end of the Union would make it much easier to access on his automatic wheel chair.
“It would be more convenient,” James said. “We would not have to travel so far just to go inside.”
Boehler said that the population of students with disabilities experiences a form of segregation.
“In a way, our population is segregated to certain extent because, in the physical world we are in, there are things we cannot do,” he said. “Most of the people with disabilities know that. If the university plans on being a Tier 1 school, issues like these should be addressed.
The Union is the students’ building. This ramp is essential simply because it is going to grant equal access to all students.”
Guerrero Garcia may be reached at email@example.com.