Tufts lacks a formal transport system specifically for disabled and temporarily disabled people on campus. This week I won’t be writing to repeal anything because we can’t repeal and replace what we lack in the first place. Instead, this is a call to action: Implement a formal system for getting injured and handicapped people around campus and up and down our massive hill.
Late in November 2018, Tufts sophomore Amelia Parish tore her ACL while playing Quidditch, and several weeks later due to stress from the original injury, tore her meniscus as well, according to a conversation I had with her. Her story is not unique, but it provides a window into accessibility on our campus, and maybe her experience can show us how to accommodate injured and disabled members of our community.
Parish became acquainted with Tufts Student Accessibility Services (SAS) soon after her injury, and they offered two services to make her life easier. First, SAS offered to move her to more accessible living accommodations. She lives on the fourth floor of Lewis Hall, a notably inaccessible dorm, but, she said, “I was living with people who were going to help me.” Moving would have made accessing her room easier but life overall harder. “Who would be there if I fell?” Parish asked.
The other service SAS offered was to move her class locations. At the time, Parish had four classes in Eaton Hall, and one in the Anderson Wing of the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC). Parish requested her class in Anderson be moved.
“They said ‘No, no, that’s our most accessible building,’ but my class is on the third floor, and the SEC has the elevator … Without some weird keycard access you can’t get into the third floor of Anderson from the elevator,” Parish said.
While well-intentioned, neither of the services offered by SAS made Parish’s life at Tufts better.
“It was winter, and snowing, and icy, and we’re on a hill,” she recalled.
What was really lacking was any support navigating campus on crutches in the Boston winter.
Tufts Police provided significant assistance, driving Parish to physical therapy at the gym, but these rides are not a formal system. Since it’s not their primary job, Parish said, “for campus security it could take them anywhere up to 30 minutes to get there … If I had a number to call for transport immediately, that would have been so helpful.”
Systems currently in place at Tufts for assisting injured or disabled students are well-meaning but ultimately inadequate. The unique geography of Tufts’ campus demands a formalized system for transportation, and it wouldn’t be difficult to implement. Adding a car and a driver to the SAS arsenal would improve the lives of many people in our community. It’s dangerous enough to walk our winter campus in perfect health and with good boots. With crutches, it’s terrifying.