Photo by James Woods
BY NATALIE LARIMER
Drake is famous for Relays, and it’s no question why. The whole city of Des Moines gets excited for these events and campus seems to come to a standstill throughout the week. However, there is a significant demographic on Drake’s campus who find Relays to be very difficult for them. Drake has a population of disabled students and staff, and Relays events, along with everyday life at Drake, has proven to be difficult for them.
Courtney Nelson, president of Disability Action Awareness Community (DAAC), has noticed many disadvantages that the Drake Stadium, as well as other Drake buildings, have created for her.
“Well, in general, stadiums tend to suck in the accessibility department,” Nelson said. “Steps are often steep and there are always many. I have only been in Drake Stadium once, and that was Welcome Weekend, and due to my physical limitations–I am a little person with achondroplasia–they just had me stand on the sidelines of the field rather than having me scale up into the stands with the rest of my peers.”
Though Drake Stadium does have accessible seating, it is inconvenient to get to. Michelle Laughlin, Drake’s student disability services coordinator, noticed that the accessible seating is few and far between.
“There is accessible seating up top,” she said. “Great views, but the elevator was a bit slow to get to the top so it took a while to get out of there.”
Nelson talks about other daily inconveniences she runs into on campus.
“Take Hubbell, for example,” she said. “When I am standing, I am close to the height of someone in a wheelchair, and most of the stations of Hubbell reach either at armpit level or above which makes getting food very difficult.”
She said a way to address this issue is to have somebody come evaluate Drake and see if it is up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) standards.
Drake is not just difficult for people in wheelchairs.
“I have been told by many people that most of the Braille around campus is either not there, or worse, is wrong,” Nelson said. “That is horrifying to me. I can only imagine how horrible that must be for the people that rely on it to get around.”
There are ways of fixing these problems. Drake has an organization dedicated to increasing campus-wide awareness of disabled people, which can lead to increased accessibility.
“DAAC is an organization here on campus that strives to create an environment where people of all abilities can come together in a safe space and be who we are without prejudice,” Nelson said. “We do social events as well as educational events where we work to inform the Drake campus about disabilities. We also do panels for staff members on how to better create inclusive learning environments.”
Laughlin said, though, that Drake has been making strides to help improve their accessibility.
“Campus itself has made great strides in improving their accessibility,” Laughlin said. “There are always improvements, but I think that Drake has been quick to address them.”
Laughlin also provides some advice for disabled people planning to attend Relays events.
“Plan ahead,” she said. “Do your research so you know where the best places to park and sit are located. Get there early.”