Walking up Cardiac Hill seems manageable — for the first ten seconds.
The next ten seconds drive fatigue through tired legs. The following ten seconds strain the lungs as the heart pumps more blood throughout your body.
Navigating the hills and valleys of the UC Santa Cruz campus would be taxing for anyone, but they’re especially taxing for those with disabilities.
The many towering stairwells, like the one connecting Rachel Carson College to the Arts area, aren’t as helpful to those utilizing crutches or canes. For wheelchair users, they are useless.
The issue is clear. The UCSC campus is not sufficiently accessible to individuals with disabilities and mobility impairments.
While the natural topography of the campus poses unavoidable limitations, the administration has failed to make its urban planning accessible to all students. There is infrastructure in place on campus with the intent to ensure efficient circulation, but we can see where financial shortcuts undermine the experiences of disabled students.
The challenges for the mobility-impaired start with actually getting on campus.
Loop buses are not wheelchair accessible, and City bus routes don’t reach the inner parts of campus, further problematizing access for impaired students. On campus, it is necessary to use stairs or trails, which may be cracked or uneven, in order to get to classrooms that are not directly accessible from the main roads.
Though the university provides the Disability Van Service (DVS) from 7:30 a.m. to 11:15 p.m., all weekend and late night rides must be scheduled in advance, and stop running after 11:15 p.m. These hours limit access to quintessential student experiences, such as eating at the dining halls early in the morning or studying in the library late at night. Although the services provided by DVS are completely free for advance reservations, doctor’s notes are required in order to reserve transportation.
Avoiding transit in favor of independently going from class to class isn’t always realistic, as the campus also lacks Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS).
APS would help accommodate visually impaired individuals and automated signals would increase safety around cars, especially at night. These signals have helped university students across the country, and are also used in Downtown Santa Cruz.
Getting to the buildings is challenging enough, but the buildings themselves contain even more accessibility challenges.
Of the ten colleges at UCSC, very few multi-floor residential buildings have elevators. Oakes, Rachel Carson, Stevenson, Cowell, Crown, and Kresge do not have elevators. Only one dorm building in College Nine is disability-accessible and has an elevator. And in the colleges that do have elevators, like Porter, none are reliably working.
This issue isn’t new. In 2015, six Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaints piled up on the Chancellor’s desk, after a Rachel Carson College elevator remained out of order for over four months. The conversation surrounding accessibility reopened in 2018, when City on a Hill Press found that elevators in five different buildings had outdated inspections.
While long-term solutions may take time, there are small additions that will make our campus not only more accessible, but safer. More elevators, wheelchair ramps, and increased hours for DVS will all create a more equitable environment at our university.
We have a beautiful rolling campus of forest and greenery. The UC should make the repairs and remodels necessary so that beauty may be shared equally, comfortably and stress-free by all.