Disabled Students Discuss Navigating Campus Spaces

5C students with disabilities say they have trouble getting around the campuses. (Courtesy of Pomona College)

“On bad days, stairs are very challenging, and the 5Cs seem to have embraced the stairs,” Christina Tricou SC '17 said.

Tricou lives with chronic joint pain, and said the layout of the 5Cs makes life difficult. Many buildings at the 5CS were constructed before accessiblity became a significant factor in design.

"There are definitely alternate routes that allow you to avoid steps or stairs anywhere you want to go outside, but they often require doubling walking distance or time, which can be a challenge in itself," Tricou said.

In 2013, Jennifer Seitel, a patron of Pomona’s Bridges Auditorium who came to see her daughters perform in a dance recital, sued Pomona College for discrimination against her disability. Seitel uses a wheelchair, and said that the bathrooms in Bridges were not wide enough to accommodate her. In response, Pomona converted two regular stalls in the women’s restroom into one stall that is wheelchair-accessible.

Yet problems persist.

Last year, the elevator in Pitzer College’s Pitzer Hall malfunctioned and was not fixed for two weeks.

There are additionally a handful of accessibility facilities that do not work, including the access button to open the door on the second floor of the Scripps College Humanities building. The 3D interactive map on the Claremont McKenna College website has no accessibility option for people to see which buildings have wheelchair accessibility.

Additionally, a lack of accessibility signs makes it time-consuming and frustrating to locate the accessible route, said Hussein Faara PO '21, who was born with Beckers Muscular Dystrophy.  

“I would like them to make their accessible routes more noticeable to prevent me from having to get stuck at someplace or waste my time looking around for them,” Faara wrote in an email to TSL.

Arielle Davis PZ '18 said the 5Cs need more transportation aids, including buses, and greater access to Campus Safety, especially when biking and scootering are not feasible.

“Students with disabilities have to put forethought to things able-bodied students don’t need to think of,” Davis said.

One Pomona student, who has a neuromuscular condition and uses a wheelchair, said that the 5Cs don't offer some of the accommodations she's seen at large universities.

"Overall, though, I have found my college accommodating and willing to improve," the student said. She asked to be kept anonymous because she is not yet comfortable with being open about her condition.

Pomona helped Faara get a scooter, set up appointments with a cardiologist and a neurologist for a health examination, and established a primary health care provider to help him deal with his condition.

“The 5Cs thrive on the idea of equality and in providing as much support/resources to any student," Faara wrote. "Being a disabled student from Ghana, I couldn't be happier about the educational experience I've had over here.”

5C administrations have taken concerns from students with disabilities into account.

According to Robert Robinson, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services, all buildings in Pomona are wheelchair-accessible, including entering buildings and changing floors. Robinson said that there is currently talk of creating a wheelchair-accessible transportation system for the 5C campuses.

However, there is no elevator in Pomona's Oldenborg Residence Hall which, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act regulations, it is required to have as a three-story building. 

Professor Amanda Agpar, a visiting professor of gender and women’s studies at Pomona, defined accessibility as “the elimination of obstacles to inclusion," wrote in an email to TSL. "The fewer obstacles, the greater the accessibility. This is the goal of universal design: to maximize inclusion for as many people – regardless of age, ability, or neurology – as possible.”