Snowy paths hinder wheelchair mobility


Kenyon Edmond

A sidewalk on the Main Quad is covered with snow and ice on Jan. 13.

By David Ruvinskiy, Staff Writer

Last week, Avery Schaefer, sophomore in DGS, was forced to ask a passerby to spot him as he attempted to roll his wheelchair down an ice-covered ramp by the Undergraduate Library. Similarly, Zain Bando, freshman in Media who also uses a wheelchair, became stuck in a patch of snow on his way to the State Farm Center.

“It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something, and it’s another thing to do it,” Schaefer said. “Until I have actually gone out there during or after a snowstorm and I can get around, I’m going to remain skeptical.”

Steven Breitwieser, manager of communications and external relations at Facilities & Services, said in an email that F&S has several measures in place to ensure the accessibility of the sidewalks on and around campus during the winter season.

These measures include looking at the forecast, ensuring equipment is in working condition, making sure each staff member has a clear shift and task and coordinating with the cities of Urbana and Champaign to indicate who is responsible for what sidewalk.

“F&S staff are committed to the safety of the students, faculty and staff during any events, and the teams are always ready and willing to react to those events,” Breitwieser said.

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Despite the measures F&S takes, Schaefer thinks the area around Nugent Hall, home of Beckwith Residential Support Services, receives more attention than other places on campus, including Wright Street. He wants anywhere on campus that is a center for the Illinois community and life to be cleaned with the same precision as the area around Nugent is.

“I would ask anyone who does snow cleaning,” Schaefer said. “Just like we’re obvious to you around Nugent, stop and think: Do you think we spend all our time in and around our dormitory? News flash: The answer is no.”

Breitwieser said the sidewalks that get used the most around Nugent receive a prioritized level of care.

F&S sent an email to students Monday updating them on snow and ice removal after a high level of snowfall over the weekend.

“Clearing activities for a winter weather event of this duration and intensity display the commitment and persistence of the more than 125 building service workers, drivers, grounds workers, operating engineers, garage staff, and support personnel performing shifts over the weekend to keep the campus open and accessible for students, faculty, and staff,” he said in the email.

However, Bando said he thinks the email mainly served as public relations and F&S was over-praising itself.

Mylinda Granger, coordinator of transportation at disability resources and educational services, said in an email that she thinks the current procedures to ensure the accessibility of sidewalks work well. She wants to remind students to contact her if they find a sidewalk that was not cleaned so she can contact F&S.

“Treat us or treat people with disabilities with the same care that you would yourself,” Schaefer said. “If you shovel your driveway in the winter, shovel the sidewalk. Think of us as people and not what would help (us). It’s not so much a problem with procedure as it is a problem with perception.”

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