March 27, 2014

By Rebecca-ann Severy, Staff Writer

Computer Club Member, Heather-Ann Arsenault Encouraging Students to Sign the Club's Petition (courtesy of Rebecca-ann Severy))

Computer Club Member, Heather-Ann Arsenault Encouraging Students to Sign the Club’s Petition (courtesy of Rebecca-ann Severy)

At The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), a Computer Club member started a petition to fight

for a new club room that is accessible for all students.

“Our goal with this petition is to move locations, so we can be accessible for all people,” said Heather-
Anne Arsenault, a sophomore and Rehabilitation major. If able to get 1000 signatures, the petition will be

given to UMF administrators, so that the computer club will be more likely to get a new room.

The Computer Club is located in the Olsen Center in between two staircases. There is no elevator

access to the room, and the hill across from the club leading up to the Student Center is too steep for a

person in a wheelchair to be able to push themselves up it.

Arsenault started the petition after she took a rehabilitation class that required her to use a wheelchair.

When she was doing the school project, she started to realize how inaccessible the computer club’s

position was and reported the issue, but nothing was done. “It just really bothered me,” said Arsenault,

with her hand curled into a fist on the table. She started a petition online and decided that, “It’s something

that needs to be done.” After creating the petition, she feared that it was not reaching as many people as

she hoped. “I knew it wasn’t getting through because we only had 30 signatures,” said Arsenault. “It

wasn’t personable enough.”

She and other computer club members decided to set up a table in in the Olsen Center to get people’s

signatures. Arsenault noted that a lot of the people that have stopped by to sign it were aware of the issue

and enthusiastic to help the cause.

Joshua Richardson, the President of the Computer Club, is hoping that when the club decides to take

this issue to the next level, perhaps student senate or higher, they will have at least 1000 signatures on the

petition to, “show that this is a cause that people care about.” This, coupled with the inaccessibility facts

of the room, will hopefully ensure the club will be taken seriously with their request.

The new room will need to have a decent temperature, so that the computers will not be damaged and

will need to have adequate inter access. The room will also need to be able to be individually locked

because of the breakable and expensive inventory the club has. In addition, because of the Computer

Club’s Local Area Networking (LAN) Parties, they will need to be close to the Olsen Center. “There’s

probably more,” said Richardson. “There are so many aspects we need to consider when getting a new

room, and all of them are essentials.”

Even with these factors, Richardson believes that it is UMF’s responsibility to do something. “The

school should be devoted to making sure everyone is given a fair chance, that everyone has the same

capacity to enrich themselves in our school community, and that everyone has the same opportunities

here,” said Richardson.

Leighlan Martin, a senior Mathematics major, has some experience with being unable to reach the

Computer Club. “All of my friends were in the computer club, or most of them,” said Martin, who

suffered from a wave boarding leg injury her sophomore year that made it so she was unable to access

the club room. “It’s a very supportive, family-like environment… When you’re injured, or when you’re

hurting, or when you just want to talk to somebody, and you physically can’t get to the place where all

of your friends are, that’s really alienating,” said Martin. Her leg injury lasted for a week, and in the

meantime, she was able to be carried down the stairs to the club. She admits, in hindsight, that this was

probably not the safest idea and acknowledged that this wouldn’t be a solution for any students who use

wheelchairs.

UMF is not completely indifferent or uncaring on this issue. Nicholas Bucci, a sophomore and current

member of Student Senate, said that the club’s need for a new room is a top priority. Student Senate

cannot assign rooms to clubs, which is a responsibility of UMF administration. “That said, Senate does

think that this is an issue and will do what it can to help the Computer Club,” said Bucci.

The club will have copies of the petition in their room if anyone would like to stop by to sign it. “If

you care about the equality of all students, if you care about giving everyone the same opportunities, if

you care about not neglecting those who are in a wheelchair, then you should sign our petition to say

you want everyone’s voice to be heard,” said Richardson. Students who are interested in helping this

cause can keep their eyes out for a day when the Computer Club members are in the Student Center

tabling for signatures, or can go online to the petition website to sign and learn more about it: http://

www.thepetitionsite.com/404/904/673/demand-accessibility-for-umf-computer-club-proposal-to-
move-locations/#.