University of Texas' plan for campus transportation still in the works

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 Bailey Abramowitz, a junior studying journalism, has been in a wheelchair, on crutches or in a boot since her freshman year at UT. Despite her chronic injury, the university has not made any accommodations to assist Abramowitz in navigating campus.

Photo Credit: Hannah Simon | Daily Texan Staff

After tearing ligaments in both of her legs while in club team gymnastics her freshman year, journalism junior Bailey Abramowitz has been in and out of using medical walking boots, crutches and wheelchairs to navigate campus. 

She has yet to find a quick or painless method of transportation, Abramowitz said.

In 2016, when she used a wheelchair as a freshman, Abramowitz said she called a University employee, who she believes worked within Services for Students with Disabilities, to see what types of transportation accommodations she could get. She said she was told there were none.

“They said ‘If it’s raining, maybe you can call the UT police, and they can drive you to class,’” Abramowitz said. “I’m not calling the police to drive me to class. I’ll get a friend to drive me at that point. But it was crazy that they had nothing to help me, and I literally cannot walk. I had just gotten into a wheelchair, and I had no idea what I was doing.” 

In the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan launched in 2017, two items address campus accessibility and transportation for temporarily and permanently disabled students. One of the items outlines the Americans with Disabilities Act transition plan to make sidewalks and paths more accessible, and this plan is actively in progress, according to the action plan. 

 

Jennifer Maedgen, UT’s ADA/Section 504 coordinator, said ADA coordinators work with UT’s Project Management and Construction Services to update and complete projects within the transition plan. 

“Our goals for the next year or two include broad accessibility improvements in three campus buildings ­— the (Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall, Engineering Teaching Center, and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Building),” Maedgen said in an email. “We are also collaborating with PMCS (Project Management and Construction Services) on a path of travel project that addresses the need to connect (Inner Campus Drive) to 21st Street, and we hope to have that project in the construction phase this summer.”

The other item outlines a plan to implement a program called “Longhorn Lift” which would include one or two drop-deck wheelchair golf carts to allow for faster on-campus transportation for students with temporary or permanent mobility issues. The initiative is still in the planning phase, according to the action plan. 

According to action plan, student leaders and representatives have discussed the program with the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, but Jess Cybulski, the assistant director of communications, said it was unable to locate information about this meeting by The Daily Texan’s deadline. 

Emily Shryock, assistant director at Services for Students with Disabilities, said while they do not directly work on transportation accessibility, the Longhorn Lift program will likely be a collaborative effort between many offices.

“I think definitely having some type of transportation system on campus (would benefit) a lot of students,” Shryock said. “The parking options and the shuttle options (are) only able to access the outer edges of campus. Being able to get to the interior of campus (is) a challenge that we hear frequently from students.”