The ASUW Student Disability Commission has organized a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of unnecessary stairs. A growing number of students have taken the F*** Stairs pledge not to use outdoor stairs for a month.
The event is a response to unnecessary stairs throughout the UW campus. Accessible routes through many parts of campus can be difficult to find or take much longer than the more typical inaccessible routes.
“We’re definitely going to see people unable to get to their classes on time through Red Square and possibly in The Quad,” Lindsey Muszkiewicz, Student Disability Commission intern, said.
Additionally, at least one building on campus has no accessible entrance. Every entrance to Anderson Hall has stairs leading up or down to it and no ramps.
“[The campaign] brings attention to how unnecessary [stairs] can be, how inaccessible they are, and kind of aggressively targets the issue,” Ashley D’Ambrosio, Student Disability Commission director, said.
Participants are asked to avoid outdoor stairs, but the campaign encourages able-bodied people to use indoor stairs. This helps conserve the use of elevators in buildings for people who genuinely need them.
While most UW buildings meet ADA requirements, many feel that it will take more work before the campus becomes truly, universally accessible. Participants in the campaign call on the UW to develop a plan to remove unnecessary stairs on campus and work toward more universally designed spaces.
“ADA-compliant buildings are not actually always accessible,” Muskiewicz said. “Just being compliant does not equal accessibility. In a lot of cases, it shows in how I have to navigate the campus, and how a lot of other people navigate as well.”
One place where some students have complaints is Kane Hall. While there are accessible entrances, visitors may have a hard time finding them, especially while coming from other parts of campus. Additionally, students with wheelchairs are forced to sit in the front, which can present challenges for sitting with friends.
“My dad used to come here for the alumni lectures and different events that they hold,” prospective student Stephanie Olsen said. “But a lot of them are in Kane Hall… so he stopped going very quickly after he became wheelchair bound. And I know that was something he found great joy in.”
The ASUW Student Disability Commission hopes that the campaign will spread awareness of these issues even among students and staff who don’t take the pledge. If participants keep the pledge even while walking around with friends, even more people will begin to see what it’s like for students with mobility-related disabilities.
“I really hope that folks really do take the time to avoid stairs and don’t decide, because they’re with a friend group, that they’re going to walk up the stairs anyway,” D’Ambrosio said. “Because you can’t do that when you have a friend who’s actually in a wheelchair.”
Additionally, D’Ambrosio asks people to think about their friend group and whether it includes anyone with a disability.
“If you look at your friend group and realize, ‘I don’t really have anyone that forces me to really think critically about this,’ go do more reading and see how your field… intersects with that way of viewing the world,” D’Ambrosio said. “I think that part of the reason we have these accessibility issues is because able bodied folks don’t think about it when they design, when they engineer, when they teach.”
This is a new campaign, but D’Ambrosio and Muszkiewicz already hope it will be repeated in future years.
“I hope that it’ll become a recurring annual event,” D’Ambrosio said.
Reach reporter Leslie Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lesliefish3r