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Institute should improve access for the handicapped

(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter to President Paul E. Gray '54.)

Dear President Gray:

I am a student worker in the MIT Libraries Acquisitions Department. On Thursday, July 20, I had to deliver a bundle of computer printouts on a handtruck to Dewey Library. I planned on using the handicapped access ramp to enter the building, assuming that it could be easily located. When I reached the building, however, not only was I unable to find the ramp, but no one I asked seemed to know how to enter either. Finally, someone suggested my using the ground entrance on the east side of the building. Upon going through the door, I discovered that I would have to go down a flight of stairs to reach the elevator. I was forced to leave the cart behind and carry the printouts the rest of the way. Although I was not terribly inconvenienced, I realized the difficulty this would pose to a handicapped student.

After I left the building (again with the cart) and walked through the parking garage under Sloan and Dewey, I saw what must be the handicapped entrance -- a set of double doors and ramps hidden behind a tall concrete slab. Even if I had known the entrance was located in the garage, I would have had a hard time finding it, never mind reaching it. People in wheelchairs cannot carry their chairs across grating as I carried across the cart.

When I returned to work, concerned about this problem (and the problem of the Sloan entrance, located in the same garage in an area marked "Deliveries here"), I called the Information Office to relate my frustration. I was transferred to the Planning Office, where I repeated my story and was again transferred, this time to the Physical Planning Group. The woman who took my call was polite, saying that she was aware of the problem. Her office had once researched the access method for a handicapped student who had to use the library. When I asked her why there had not been any sort of signs posted to help she implied that there were many trouble spots to deal with and insufficient resources. In the end, she appreciated my concern but did not promise any action.

I do realize that the Physical Planning Group is willing to research routes for MIT's handicapped students and I am certain that MIT has a guide to handicap accesses for its students. However, I am concerned that a visitor to our campus would not know where to get that kind of help. Posting signs with arrows and placing a pathway over gratings would be an inexpensive and quick way to show guests that MIT believes in equal access to all.

Paula Cuccurullo '91->