Lack of parking close to academic buildings is a chronic complaint at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.
But for students, staff or visitors with disabilities, access to parking is not just an issue of convenience, but a necessity. Committees set up by both the college and the faculty are looking at accessibility issues and working to raise awareness of them on campus.
Assistant professor Susan Fahey, co-chair of the faculty Accessibility Task Force, said Stockton fares well overall against other state colleges because the campus is fairly flat and most academic buildings are connected. But there are still challenges that include easy access to elevators and the location of the handicapped access parking. Some issues may seem small, but are not to someone with a disability.
“I’ve run around campus measuring the height of the paper towel holders in the bathrooms,” she said.
She said people know not to park in handicapped parking spaces. But, she said, many people routinely use the automatic handicapped door openers to access buildings without thinking that overuse stresses the mechanism and shortens its life span.
The elevators in the older academic buildings are also aging, and because they are spaced out across campus, it is very inconvenient if one breaks down.
“Right now there is no way to warn people if one of them is not working,” Fahey said. She said that issue affects not only those with disabilities, but anyone trying to transport materials on campus.
Task Force co-chair Fran Bottone, coordinator of services for students with disabilities at Stockton, said the major issue for students is parking near the academic buildings. Parking access to the Performing Arts Center for visitors is also a concern.
“We have handicapped accessible parking, but it’s not really that close to the buildings, because none of our parking is,” she said. “Parking is an issue for everyone.”
Assistant Provost Debra Dagavarian, who uses the handicapped parking and serves on the task force, said while there are multiple handicapped parking areas, it’s not always easy to find a spot in the area of campus where she needs to be. She got the last spot near the Campus Center on Tuesday, but it’s not the most convenient.
“I like N-wing because the parking is closer to the building, and even if I have to walk it’s easier to walk indoors,” she said. “But you do have to pray the elevator is working or you have to walk up stairs just to get to the next elevator.”
She also teaches a class at Stockton’s Manahawkin instructional site, which she loves because it is small and very accessible.
Donald M. Hudson, associate vice president for facilities, said the college recently re-established a Parking Committee to address current concerns and propose long-term solutions.
He said accessibility is a major topic of the committee, and the college recently completed an Americans with Disabilities Act survey of the entire campus. He said they are reviewing the results and integrating them into future facilities planning, including parking. He said they hope to have a plan in place later this spring.
In the meantime, the faculty task force will host a free showing of the documentary “Murderball” at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Campus Center theater, followed by a discussion of disability issues. “Murderball” is a 2005 American documentary film about quadriplegic athletes who play competitive wheelchair rugby.
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