Elevators causing accessibility problems in West Campus

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Photo Credit: Eilish O'Sullivan | Daily Texan Staff

West Campus is full of high-rise apartment complexes and elevators that make it easier for students to access their rooms. However, for students like finance senior Amie Jean, out-of-service elevators have made it hard to get to class.

Jean was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis her sophomore year, making it hard for her to navigate campus without a wheelchair. Jean lives on the third floor of her West Campus apartment complex, where she said there are always problems with the elevators.

“We constantly have issues with elevators, which is so inconvenient for me,” Jeann said. “I didn’t understand how inconvenient it would be.”

Jean said she was on a waitlist to move to an apartment on the first floor to help with the elevator issue. She remains on a higher floor for now but said her apartment works with her and informs her when there is an elevator problem. 

Jean used to live off of Riverside but said she moved to West Campus because it is closer to the University while also accomodating her desire for an off-campus experience. 

“You want the option to live closer to campus,” Jean said. “That ‘home away from home’ space, at least in my opinion, feels realer when you aren’t living on campus either.”

Computer engineering senior Runas said while some apartments make room placement accommodations for students with mobility disabilities, the social aspect of students wanting to visit friends or navigating through their apartments can still be hindered by out-of-service elevators. 

“I think that improving housing accessibility can make coming to UT more accessible for everyone,” Runas said.  “Sure they’ll put you on the first floor, but what if your friend does not live on the first floor and their elevator is out of service?”

 

Allie Runas, West Campus Neighborhood Association chair, said she has noticed elevators in West Campus and her own apartment consistently stop working.

The neighborhood association has focused on sidewalk accessibility and West Campus lighting in the past. Runas said they want to look into elevator accessibility in the future. 

“Elevators were designed to be something that blends into the background,” Runas said. “We shouldn’t have to think about access to them in buildings where we’re promised that kind of accessibility. People shouldn’t come home guessing if they’ll have to figure out a different way.”

Maredith Martin, health and society sophomore, said she also experiences elevator problems all the time. She said sometimes it takes three days to fix the elevators, and for people with mobility disabilities, that’s too much time. 

“I don’t have to deal with (a mobility disability), but for anyone who does, it would be a really hard struggle for them because … they couldn’t rely on the elevators,” Martin said.

Jean said she hopes changes can be made because accessibility is important for all students.

“I think if West Campus (apartments) could come together, like a coalition, and support what we have going at UT, it’s an opportunity for them to say, ‘Hey, not only are we giving you housing that is not connected to the University, but we are also are forward thinking with the (UT) culture,” Jean said.