Jordan and an Inaccessible Building: A Case Study in Accomodating Mobility Impairments

Background

A student, Jordan, who uses a wheelchair and is majoring in a Special Education/Mentally-Physically Handicapped program, needed to take a required course. The class, "Health and Physical Education for Elementary Schools," was to be held in an old building which was inaccessible.

Access Issue

While the usual procedure was to move the location of the class to an accessible building, the professor initially requested that a temporary ramp be constructed for access. This idea was rejected by facilities management due to the prohibitive expense and time of building a ramp which would meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) specifications. The building was slated for renovation in two years. The class was relocated to a fieldhouse arena where three other gym classes were scheduled for the same time slot. This was unacceptable to the professor who felt the teaching environment would be adversely affected because of excessive noise. Furthermore, since there was inadequate storage at the fieldhouse, equipment (including balance beams, assorted size balls, and other large items needed for the course) would need to be moved to the fieldhouse prior to each class session. As a result, the professor requested the student be carried up the 22 cement stairs to the original classroom. This proposed solution was rejected due to student safety and institutional liability issues.

Solution

The student, professor, and office for disabled student services jointly developed a satisfactory solution. An experienced telecommunications student was hired by the office for disabled student services to videotape the class sessions. The student using the wheelchair met with the professor after class to obtain the videotaped class session and written outline. The student reviewed the videotape and notes and had the opportunity to ask questions of the professor via electronic mail and telephone prior to each regular class. The class was moved to the fieldhouse arena for one day when it was the student's assigned turn to teach a class. The student chose equipment in her lesson plan that did not require anything but the professor's jeep to transport it to the fieldhouse.

Conclusion

This case study illustrates that:

  1. It is helpful to work as a triad with the professor, student, and office of disabled student services to resolve access issues; the process of problem solving together creates a solution acceptable to all parties involved.
  2. Some accommodation strategies are recognized as imperfect and temporary, but provide access to a specific student in a specific course until more acceptable permanent solutions, such as renovating a facility, can be employed.