While this issue may tackle the wide varieties of racial, sexual, and economic minorities on campus, there remains a group that is commonly overlooked: The eight students who require a wheelchair for conveyance. This reporter simply asked, “Is it hard for these people to live a normal life at RIT?”
“No, not at all,” stated third year Graphic Media major, Michael Bloomfield. Born three months premature, Bloomfield was the unfortunate victim of a pure oxygen incident that gave him cerebral palsy, thereby confining him to a wheelchair for life. Even though having such a disability might lead other people to think that he’s got it bad here, Bloomfield is quite happy with his situation.
“The entire community’s been very flexible. As a whole, RIT is very open and accepting in terms of working with people with disabilities,” said Bloomfield. In his time here, he cannot recall any major social rifts between disabled and non-disabled students, and almost all of his professors have been very understanding concerning any academic accommodations
for his classes.
Speaking of accommodations, Bloomfield also talks highly of the Disability Services office, an RIT division designed to assist student with special physical needs. “Everybody associated with Disability Services has been very helpful, positive and willing to work with any member of the RIT community. Whenever an issue arises in relation to Disability Services ... things have always been dealt with very quickly and efficiently,” said Bloomfield. From alternative testing locations, to extra test-taking time, to earlier class registration and classroom needs, the office makes sure that people like Bloomfield are academically comfortable at RIT.
Director of Disability Services Susan Ackerman described her job modestly, “I wouldn’t say that my office really provides any services, really ... My job is to make sure students with disabilities aren’t discriminated against and ... that the accommodations students need are in place.”
Despite the help from Disability Services, there are locations at RIT that remain inaccessible. The large ramp that splits the second level of the James E. Booth Fine Arts building and the Frank E. Gleason building, if unassisted, is impossible to maneuver in a wheelchair. Lecture halls like the George Eastman building’s room 2000 can only be accessed by two small sets of stairs. For Bloomfield, the entrance doors found in the same building are one of the tightest fits for wheelchair access on campus.
Regardless of these issues, Bloomfield would suggest only a few small changes be made to make RIT more accessible. Wider rows between desks and the maintenance of automatic door buttons are little things that would simplify day-to-day activities for physically challenged students.
“Ultimately,” stated Bloomfield, “I don’t regret my decision to come to RIT at all. [My time here has] had its ups and downs, but that’s the nature of life.” Despite some structural imperfections on campus that occasionally remind him otherwise, he doesn’t feel any different at all. “[My handicap makes] no difference to me. I’ve been in a wheelchair all my life,” he said. Like everyone else, Bloomfield will go on living his normal routine and try to survive the hectic week ten.