By Morgan Kashinsky
Kelly-Ann Rivera, a senior film studies major, began to face new challenges on campus when the fall 2018 semester started. Over the summer, Rivera had complications resulting from a surgery to remove a tumor on her spine. Over the summer the doctors had found a non-cancerous tumor growing out from her spine onto her kidney.
“The doctors are very shocked that I was neurologically fine, and that I was walking just fine the way I was,” Rivera said. After her surgery, she was left temporarily paralyzed. For the past three months, she has been regaining strength in her legs. To get around campus, she uses a walker. However, she’s discovered that campus is not easy to navigate with a walker, much less a wheelchair.
Rivera found it almost impossible to use the bathroom in Humanities Hall, where one of her classes is located. “Toilets in general are very low. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but now you’ll notice ‘this is very low for me to get down to,’” she said.
“It’s very hard for me to get down to a toilet, because I don’t have the strength in my calves or thighs to hold on in order to get down. So, in Humanities Hall, I’m literally slamming myself down onto the toilet. And since there’s no handicapped [stalls] accessible, there aren’t any bars to lift myself up. I’m lifting myself up through the trash bin. And every time I think ‘I’m going to break it.’ And if I break it, I’m going to fall.” The trash bin Rivera refers to is not a large garbage bin for paper towels, but the small bin in each stall for used sanitary products.
Rivera mentioned that the stall does not provide enough room for her walker. “I have to leave my walker outside of the stall, and then I have to go very slowly so I don’t trip,” she said. “Because if I fall, I can’t get back up. What if I was in my wheelchair? I would not be able to use the bathroom at all.”
Although there is a ramp leading into Humanities, the handicapped door does not open when the button is pushed. On September 20, The Pioneer discovered that the door is still not working.
“I love school so much, I hate missing a day,” Rivera said. She tried to Skype into her classes, however the sound was lackluster. She said her professors do their best to accommodate her, but often point her in the direction of Disability Support Services.
“I haven’t been the library yet because it’s farther,” she said. “I know it’s wheelchair accessible; I know there’s an elevator, but I don’t know where. I haven’t been to Hillwood yet; I haven’t been to the bookstore, I don’t know if it’s handicap accessible. Now I don’t know what is accessible.”
Walking can be fatiguing for Rivera. “I don’t want to waste my energy [going to a building] not to be able to get in,” she said. “Before, I would go to Hillwood, I would go to Starbucks.”
Roy Fergus, the executive director of facilities, did not respond The Pioneer’s inquires about either the bathroom or the door situation.