The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, November 05, 1971, Image 1

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VOL. 95 NO. 31
UNL holds barriers for handicapped
by Randy Beam
The University of Nebraska is full of barriers. Not
barbed wire fences or Berlin Walls, but curbs, narrow
doorways, bicycles and stairs.
And they all limit the physical mobility of the
severely handicapped student on campus-the one in a
wheelchair or the one without sight-in the same sense
that a barbed wire fence might stop most of us.
In 1969 only 31 per cent of some 65 buildings on
both City and East Campus were at least partly
accessible to the severely disabled student, according
to results of an architectural barrier survey conducted
by the home economics honorary Phi Upsilon
The group's sponsor, Dr. Lois Schwab, though
pleased that efforts have been made to raise this
percentage, still maintains the situation has not
changed enough in two years to negate what the
survey says-that it's hard to get places by yourself on
this campus if you're in a wheel chair.
Only nine buildings, including Pound Dormitory,
six class room buildings and the stadium are listed as
fully accessible. Even though the Nebraska Union is
also considered to be such, most of the five
wheelchair students on campus find the ramp too
steep to maneuver by themselves.
A fully accessible building is one where the
handicapped student can function independently-as
any other student could-doing simple things like
getting a drink (fountains are often not installed close
enough to the ground) or going to the restroom
(special stalls must be available to permit a wheel
chair to enter.)
The honorary also conducted a "wheelchair run"
for a typical day of classes. The results: special
assistance was required 54 times to get over curbs,
through narrow doorways and up steps. And
assuming the student lived at Selleck Residence Hall,
as many handicapped do, special provisions for meals
were also needed.
The blind face a different set of barriers.
The three students interviewed of an estimated
seven on campus, had all suffered bruises as the result
of bicycles left parked in sidewalks. And one called
crossing 16th Street by the Women's Residence Halls
"a nightmare."
Additionally, sisters Barb and Laurie Beach
maintain that there are many unnecessary barriers on
campus, especially on the union mall. Moveable
flower planters, trash cans and benches create such a
hazard that the bund sisters hesitate to travel there.
Other bothersome obstacles: ironing boards (and
irons), boxes and desks left in hallways.
The text book proves yet another formidable
educational barrier. Blind students approach this
problem from three directions: either by sending
away for tape recording, or if no tape is available,
soliciting a volunteer or paid reader to tape the book,
or securing a brailed text.
The University plays no active role in this process,
except to provide a list of books needed. How a book
gets read, and how much it costs, is a burden borne
by the student. He, in turn, is reimbursed for
expenses by the state, depending on need.
Some scattered efforts to establish a reader's
service for the blind at NU have been made. Don
Payne, a counselor, has volunteered to try and get
readers for students who need them, although no one
The Daily Nebraskan talked to had taken him up on
his offer.
It's been just in the last five years that the
University has initiated an ongoing program to
remove architectural barriers, according to chief
design engineer George Burnham.
Codes enacted by the Unicameral during this
period have provided impetus for this change, George
Miller, administrator at the NU physical plant,
"Students aren't greeted anymore with stairs like
they used to be," Miller said, singling out Hamilton
Hall as an example. Ramp entrances, he noted are
incorporated into all new building designs, along with
standard fall-length steps (for the blind), elevators and
wide doors. Old buildings are remodeled to provide
alternate entrances for the handicapped whenever
possible, he said. The added costs for these changes,
Miller assured, are not great.
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Special class scheduling problems are handled by
Dean Lee Chatfield of Student Academic Services. In
some instances, he reported, whole classes have been
moved to more readily accommodate a handicapped
student. But the number of requests for this type of
change has been small, he added.
To what end is all this effort directed? The answer
so many interviewed provided is "independence."
The University says it wants to allow maximum
mobility with minimum assistance. "
Former NU graduate student Nancy Erickson, who
wheeled around campus the last two years, put it this
way: "The main thing is to be as independent as
possible, but on this campus it's about impossible."
Charlie Armstrong
Students discuss problems
by Randy Beam
Barb and Laurie Beach are blind, but getting
around campus doesn't rate as their biggest problem.
Their biggest problem is getting to know students.
"Socially we're pretty much out of it, but a lot of
it might be our own fault," Laurie said.
Nancy Erickson, a former NU graduate student,
spends most of her day in a wheel chair. She says
getting acquainted with other students wasn't that
difficult, but noted that being a grad student gave her
a head start, although she didn't go to NU for
undergraduate study.
"A lot of this has to do with your own attitude,"
she said.
Bearded Charles Armstrong III is frequently seen in
the Nebraska Union, on his yellow motorized scooter
called an "electrovelocipede." He's angered by many
things, but particularly by what he called a
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patronizing attitude, and students who are blinded to
their own prejudice.
And blind freshman John Coyle says he experiences
no significant problems relating to sighted students.
Barb and Laurie spend most of their spare time
with other blind students, although that's not how
they say they want it.
Laurie explained: "The blind are a minority group
which is treated pretty much like any other minority
group. People seem hesitant to get involved with us."
This attitude, in some cases. Barb said, extends to
roommate relationships. Though she indicated that
she and her sister have never had much problem, one
blind friend had two roommates move out.
To prevent this, Barb suggested the housing office
notify potential roommates for blind students in
advance of their roommate's handicap.
"Some kids just don't want a blind roommate,"
Barb asserted. "It makes them conspicuous and some
don't know how to deal with this special situation.
They feel inadequate."
Referring to the roommates who moved out. Barb
said: "We think part of that might have been due to
the fact that they were not told beforehand. We can't
seem to convince anybody that this is something that
should be done."
Armstrong was more ardent in his criticism of
student attitudes toward the handicapped. An
inability, as he prefers to call it, only means there are
certain physical activities he cannot participate in.
Socially, he said, a handicapped student can
participate equally with anyone else.
"We are not any less a person because of our
inabilities," Armstrong stated.
He voiced criticism of student dating attitudes
toward the handicapped. Studies indicate, he said,
that 95 per cent of NU students would not consider
marrying a handicapped person, and another 67 per
cent would never date one.
Armstrong paralleled a handicapped person's
status in American society to that of a black's, calling
both second-class citizens.
Nancy Erickson found most people "willing to get
to know me, but it was my responsibility to make the
first move," she said.
The biggest problem is "getting people to look
beyond my disability to what's underneath,"
Laurie and Barb Beach
Turn to page 4.