It’s no secret that I have used my different positions at Reporter to do things that I normally wouldn’t. As a result, I’ve had my butt kicked by a group of fencers, planned and participated in a speed dating event, and spent a day busking in the subways of New York City. Also as a result of my own silly suggestions, I, as well as four other staff members, ended up going on a blind date in the name of journalism. This week’s feature is no different. Luckily, I wasn’t the one participating in it.
In “The Great Accessibility Challenge,” our Features Editor Alex Rogala wrote about his one day traversing campus in a wheelchair (see page 16). While Reporter had run articles on the topic before, this article offers a unique take on accessibility. Unfortunately, one of the strongest parts of that story didn’t make it into print.
Alex’s journey was supposed to be a two-day affair, but on the first day, a bus driver, who seemed to be having a bad day, yelled at Alex in front of a crowd of passengers after realizing that he wasn’t really injured. The driver, it turned out, had a handicapped son. Embarrassed and afraid he would get the magazine in trouble, Alex abandoned the experiment and stashed his wheelchair in the Reporter office, where I eventually found it. To make the long story short, I forced Alex back in the wheelchair and told him not to stand up again until he had to return it to the rental shop. Still, Alex’s experience is probably nowhere near what others have to go through everyday.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy with the resulting article, but our plan did have its flaws. We could have done better. Students aren’t exactly flocking on campus on a Friday, which is when the experiment took place. The wheelchair was only in Reporter’s possession for a limited time, and for obvious reasons, we ended up letting Alex forego the bus experience.
Interestingly enough, many of the criticisms I have with Reporter’s execution of “The Great Accessibility Challenge” are similar to the criticisms I have with the execution of Student Government’s Real RIT Challenge (see “The Real RIT Challenge” on page 8). The timing of the administrators’ bus rides didn’t exactly line up with a typical student schedule. Certain housing options were underrepresented probably due to limited availability, and the participants, though willing to attempt to return home using public transportation, were driven home by SG after their Thursday night excursions to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Wegmans.
Both experiments by Reporter and SG have areas that need improvement, and that’s where my one true concern with The Real RIT Challenge comes into play. Having heard a number of students comment on how much help the participants received from SG, I asked the panel of participants a single question during the open forum: “Do you think that the level of assistance that you received from SG interfered with the reality of the challenge?” In response, I was told that SG found a unique way that didn’t involve petitions and protests to communicate concerns, and that due to the nature and length of the challenge, one couldn’t expect to simulate the true student experience. I agree with both statements, but that wasn’t exactly what I was asking.
I can understand the hesitation to give negative feedback, especially in a public setting; but sometimes it’s good practice to take a step back and analyze what could have been done better.
In hindsight, maybe I should have rephrased my question.