How SMU parking affects students with disabilities

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Waking up in the morning is already a struggle. The difficulties of opening your eyes, dragging yourself out of bed, and going to class are a constant for SMU students.

However, the difficulty does not end there, as students can spend up to an hour driving in circles looking for a parking spot. This issue is especially prevalent for students with disabilities, who can find little to no accessible parking.

Madison Whitaker is one of these students.

“At certain times of the day, I can never find an accessible spot,” Whitaker said. “Meadows only has one spot that is directly next to the building. The rest are considered to be metered even though they are also marked as accessible.”

Whitaker parked in one of these spaces and didn’t pay the meter. She already pays for the doctor, for the placard, and for her SMU permit. Paying for a meter seems unnecessary to her, but that did not stop her from receiving a ticket.

Whitaker is not alone. Other students, such as Chuck Poe, a disabled veteran, have run into these issues as well.

“There’s always a place to park,” Poe said “But specifically for handicapped parking there’s not enough [spaces].”

The Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS) team assists students with any adjustments they need in their daily lives. Usually, they provide academic accommodations, and direct parking related inquires toward Parking Services.

However, when asked about disability parking, Mark Rhodes directed us toward DASS. It is this discrepancy that confuses students, who cannot find a clear service for their needs.

The head of DASS, Alexa Taylor, has ideas on how to make parking more accessible.

“I would like to see a couple of ‘loading zones’ in more of central campus, for those who are dropping off someone with a disability, like someone in a wheelchair or an individual who is blind,” Taylor said. “This can help the caregiver or driver get someone close to a building, assist them and their equipment, and ensure they are pointed in the right direction.”

Besides the issue of finding parking itself, other students experience difficulties with the maintenance of the parking garages. Seher Iqbal specifically expressed trouble with the broken elevators in Airline Parking Garage. This broken elevator makes it difficult for students to park here if they can’t use the stairs.

“I have knee pain and I knew several other students with physical limitations that essentially have this whole lot off limits for them,” Iqbal said. “I know this issue has been brought up before, but they seem to use a temporary fix and the wait to get even that is extremely long.”

Rhodes said Facilities is responsible for elevators and that usually there is an elevator repair person on campus during weekdays and that whether elevators are fixed in a timely manner is out of their hands.

The issue of parking runs deeper than not having enough spots. To ensure an effective system, administration must take into account students with more than just the typical necessities. Communication between offices may need to improve.

The Daily Campus welcomes opinion contributions from students, faculty, and staff. Submissions should be no more than 1000 words and are subject to editing. Please email submissions to dcopinion@smu.edu. Submissions must include your SMU ID and a cell phone number for verification.

Photo credit: Will Buckner

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