Mercer’s Macon campus: aesthetics over accessibility

On any given day, I don’t typically pay much attention to the way I’m getting around campus. Sometimes, when the buildings seem farther away from each other I think about bringing my bike to campus. However, past experience with bikes being stolen has made me think twice. Instead, I stick with walking.
Walking is a healthy activity. When the weather is particularly nice, walking around campus can be very pleasant. Walking allows me to clear my head, catch up with friends, or just get me from one class to the next.
During my sophomore year, my walking capabilities were severely compromised when I sprained my ankle playing soccer and was stuck in a boot for two months. I could still walk up stairs and such, but getting around campus was more difficult than I liked. Fortunately, at that point I was only on crutches for a week, mostly because I found them unnecessary.
Anyway, this year, I ended up injuring myself on the soccer field, once again, but this time my knee took the blow.
Ligaments can only take so much stress until they tear, and boy did mine tear. Rupture was the term the doctor used.
I’ve been hobbling around campus, trying my best to avoid stairs and uneven pavement as much as possible. I can go up and down stairs, but it usually takes me about five times longer than before I hurt my knee.
There aren’t many ramps around campus, and the elevators make me really nervous so I usually bite the bullet and take the stairs anyways.
I’m scheduled for surgery this week and will be on crutches for an undisclosed amount of time. Not that I’m trying to keep anything from the reader, the doctor just doesn’t know how long I’m going to be on crutches.
The worst I’ve heard is about eight weeks. All I could think was, “I can barely get around campus now! How am I supposed to get around campus on crutches for eight weeks?”
The truth of the matter is, Mercer has made the executive decision to go for an aesthetically pleasing campus rather than making an effort to accommodate the handicapped.
I will only be temporarily handicapped — and I’m not the only one. I know of at least two athletes in two different sports who have the same injury as mine. Students becoming handicapped by sports injuries and other similar activities that interfere with normal walking are not isolated.
Plus, there are students on campus that can’t get around the campus due to their own physical limitations. These limitations are not necessarily their fault, but Mercer’s campus is not making it any easier for them to get around.
I have classes in both Ware and Willingham, and both of these building will be nearly impossible for me to navigate on crutches.
Maybe it’s my independent streak in me, but I don’t necessarily like people holding the door open for me with a look on their face that says, “I feel sorry for you so I’m going to be an upstanding citizen to hold the door open for you.” I apprectiate the kind gesture. I hate the forced appearance sympathy.
I’d much rather just press a button that opens the door for me. I get through the door and move on with the rest of my day. Unfortunately, the older buildings on campus don’t have these automatic door opener buttons, nor do they have elevators.
I have class in Willingham on the second floor. While the department is moving the class to the classroom downstairs to accommodate my lack of mobility, my professor hurt her ankle and has difficulty going up stairs. Her office is on the second floor and the lack of an elevator makes going to and from her office rather inconvenient. For what? For the building to maintain an aesthetic beauty? The building is old. We get it. But the aesthetics don’t necessarily need to be destroyed just by adding a little bit of modern technology.
MEP, the girl’s freshman dorm has “handicap” rooms on both the second and third floor. However, none of the elevators work in the building. The elevators are stagnant and a little creepy if you really think about it.
Sure the history of the building is cool and we want to maintain that, but there comes a point when having “handicap” rooms becomes a joke. Those rooms shouldn’t be a joke. They are built for the use of people restrained to wheelchairs, but I don’t think I can remember a time when there has been a person in a wheelchair on the second and third floor of MEP.
My freshman year, one of my friends ended up getting sick during her Chemistry lab and they had to call the ambulance.
Unfortunately, the EMTs spent most of their time trying to figure out how to bring the gurney up to the top floor of Willet. They couldn’t figure out a way, so they brought their medical equipment to her in hopes that she wouldn’t need to be taken to the hospital on the gurney.
There’s something wrong with this picture. Everyone can complain about how outdated all of the science equipment is in Willet, but there’s a safety hazard involved the EMTs can’t even get their gurney into the building.
There are several buildings around campus that have made themselves accessible to handicapped. Tarver Library is rather accessible, if not the most accessible.
Stetson is fairly accessible, Knight is easy to navigate, and Mercer Hall. The rest of the buildings are rather difficult to get into.
The University Center is a hit or miss. The ramps are sort of easy to use, but the incline is rather steep. Upper body strength is definitely a must when one’s lower extremities stop working as well.
These buildings are the newer ones on campus, but even the student center has a working elevator – an elevator I will definitely not be using. I used it once and I thought I was in a horror film. But I guess functional is better than nothing.
The other, older buildings on campus seem to have chosen aesthetics over remodeling to accommodate those who can’t get into the buildings as easily.
Take Ware for instance. I recognize that this building is very old, one of the oldest on campus, but the doors are difficult to open for even the able bodied person.
Trying to open the door on crutches and then having to immediately take a step up into the building is rather difficult. That’s just the front of the building.
The side door is even worse.The door opens out, so you have to pull the door towards you in order to get inside. Now, think about getting up the five or so steps on crutches, then having to figure out how to get out of the way of the door when you are trying to open it — on one foot.
I wouldn’t use this entrance while I’m on crutches, because it’s not practical. However, the difficulty of getting into this building is real.
Willingham has one main entrance that is equally difficult to get into. Getting up the brick paved path is difficult on crutches, and even more difficult when it’s wet.
Those bricks get slick when they get wet and even my able bodied self slips from time to time. Getting up the stairs is daunting, especially when, once you get to the top, you need to brace yourself for other people coming out of the building.
A couple of my friends have gotten hit by the door on multiple occasions.
I’ve used myself as an example through much of this article, but I haven’t even been on crutches for very long, yet.
Sure Mercer Police offered to give me rides whenever I need them, but I’m not the only one on campus that is on crutches.
People are in wheelchairs, have their arms in slings, or just have difficulty walking. These people aren’t necessarily students. Professors get hurt. We have visitors.
Mercer is always telling us to “Be the Bear” and much of what that means is impacting the world. How are we supposed to impact the world when we give the first impression of restricting what people who are already restricted can do?
Of course, when I say that, I don’t mean temporary handicaps like my knee injury. I’m talking about potential students, prestigious visitors who may have physical limitations, professors, and so on. We need to be welcoming, we need to be able to show them that we want them here, that we accommodated them, instead of isolated because they can’t get somewhere. After all, aesthetics aren’t everything.

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