By Christine Della Porta, Staff Writer

Jen Harle in her assigned wheelchair

Jen Harle in her assigned wheelchair (photo by Christine Della Porta)

Many of the buildings and walkways on the University of Maine at Farmington’s (UMF) campus that are not easily accessible to those in wheelchairs, have recently been made apparent due to the great number of students using wheelchairs to complete an assignment.
Students in particular classes on campus, including Intro to Rehab Services and Intro to Special Education, are required to use a wheelchair every place they go for three days. The purpose of this assignment is to “give students a chance to experience the day to day life of being disabled and being in a wheelchair,” said Jen Harle, a student taking Intro to Rehab Services.
Students on campus get irritated by the snow and slush on the sidewalks after a snowstorm, but it becomes increasingly problematic when the number of students in wheelchairs rises. “The snow has made it incredibly hard for me to be independent in a wheelchair… I’ve constantly been getting stuck in the snow going to classes,” said Harle, “I try and stay off the sidewalks to avoid getting stuck in the snow and falling over.”
On another note, there are certain buildings on campus that are not accessible at all to those in wheelchairs, such as Mallet Hall and Purington Hall. They do not have a ramp outside of the building and do not have an elevator inside. “I have to use a wheelchair for my class, and I live on the second floor of Purington. There’s no way for me to get to my room in the wheelchair. Something should really be done about this!” said an anonymous student.
The Health Center is another building that is not easily accessible to those in wheelchairs. Although there is a way inside, it is difficult to access. “In order to get into the health center I have to go up the Scott South ramp entrance and go down the hall and then call the Health Center and ask them to let me in the door that connects the Scott lounge to the Health Center,” said Harle.
Although students seem to have a lot of trouble getting around in wheelchairs around campus, most noted how much they enjoyed doing it. “This is honestly such an amazing experience,” said Harle.
“Getting to do this was really eye-opening for me. It showed me the difficulties of being in a wheelchair, especially on campus where it’s not very easy to get to some places I need to be.” said another anonymous student.