Does Dickinson Do Enough for People With Disabilities?

Alexandria Lee ’26, Guest Writer

Dickinson College, while technically abiding by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is not accessible for its physically disabled students. Handicapped buttons are often broken and in difficult-to-reach places; potholes, divots and cracks are common in every walkway; elevators consistently malfunction in the few buildings that even have them; and accessible doors are almost always locked. Our campus strives to be inclusive of all people, and while legally we are, more needs to be done to accommodate our peers. One of my closest friends, Sam Ritschel ’26, who uses a scooter and runs into accessibility issues all the time.


Accessibility issues are an everyday occurrence for Ritschel. She experiences issues with accessibility buttons often — either because they are not in a reachable spot or are broken all together — and her FOB (her remote button that opens doors) not opening every door, and is even not opening the doors it’s supposed to. 


Ritschel recalls Tome and The Rector Center being some of the most difficult buildings to get into. With everyday accessibility issues comes issues with dining as well. While all Dicksonians have had some level of issue with the dining situation on campus, it is even more difficult for students with mobility aids. Narrow areas make it hard for Ritschel to maneuver her scooter, especially at Union Station and the Smoothie Bar. Items are so high up that she can’t reach them, meaning she usually needs at least one person to go with her to any kind of dining service. 


Areas with sodas, salads and sauces at Union Station are difficult for Ritschel to reach, and there is no aid provided to her. In the cafe other problems emerge for Ritschel. Areas, such as soda, salad, pasta, grill, entrees and sauces, she is unable to reach. 


However, there is also a lack of tools for Ritschel. Ritschel relies on bowls, and there is almost none ever available. At times she has also been berated by staff for using her own utensils. Ritschel’s everyday life is impeded by obstacles that able-bodied students never have a second thought about. 


Ritschel hasn’t lost hope for Dickinson, though! She hopes that Dickinson will take action, and become a more accessible campus. She wants handicapped buttons to become “more visible and more accessible, [and] fix the broken ones.” Ritschel wants campus dining to improve, as well, with allowing disabled students online ordering, so they don’t have to rely on someone else to get their meals for them. Ritschel wants Dickinson to improve and make hers, and other disabled students’ lives, easier.


To understand the lack of accessibility on campus, we must listen to disabled students. Seeing the campus from an able-bodied lens does not give us the perspective we need to institute change. We must not look at it only from a legal standpoint, but from a moral standpoint as well. Technically Dickinson does abide by all of the ADA’s requirements, but it does not allow a flourishing community for all students. Things such as narrow spaces that able-bodied people, including me, do not think twice about can be detrimental to the success of our disabled peers. To make sure our peers have equitable education, Dickinson College needs genuine accessibility.