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The Undergraduate Council discussed the lack of accessibility in campus buildings at its general meeting on Sunday night.
During the Council’s scheduled “Community Time,” time allotted for non-UC students to address the Council, Kunho Kim ’17 and Brad I. Riew ’17 spoke about some of their concerns that Harvard is overall disjointed and inaccessible to students with disabilities.
Kim and Riew initially brought up the issue at an open forum with University President Drew G. Faust and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana on March 24, reminding the administrators that a handful of upperclassman dining halls and Houses are fully accessible.
At Sunday’s meeting, the two repeated many of their thoughts and concerns to UC representatives, many of whom had been in attendance at the forum. Kim and Riew said another major issue stems from what they see as a lack of publicity and communication from Harvard University Disability Services.
“Elevators or ramps, when they don’t work, people don’t know where to report them,” Kim said, adding that University Disability Services is often difficult to reach via email.
Kim also said the campus is overall extremely “decentralized,” with buildings overseen by different building managers, making it further difficult to notify the school of accessibility issues.
In response, some UC representatives suggested that changes in Ventfull, a smartphone application that the Council brought to Harvard earlier this semester, and the proposed UC remake of the official Harvard smartphone application could prove useful to students concerned about accessibility.
UC Vice President Dhruv P. Goyal ’16 proposed an added “tag” on Ventfull for events that are fully accessible. Other tags on the app currently filter for things such as social events and events with free food. He added that after the Council’s Harvard app reboot is launched, it will also contain more thorough contact information for University Disability Services and other campus resources.
Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde, also at the meeting, added that it is the responsibility of all undergraduates to report various lapses in accessibility.
“It can’t be the burden of one person,” Lassonde said. “All of us need to take responsibility for this—it’s a really important issue.”
The Council’s Student Relations Committee chair, William Oh ’18, also proposed that representatives compile a list of the College’s building managers, along with their contact information, to make reporting things like broken elevators or inaccessible wheelchair ramps more efficient.
Later in the meeting, the Council’s constitution was amended to penalize representatives who fail to vote on a piece of legislation with an additional absence on their attendance record. The amendment was passed with two votes cast in opposition.
—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.
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