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Midterm Project: Increasing Accessibility at Haverford College

ghaupt's picture

Where This Project Comes From 

I first became interested in doing an advocacy project when we read Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s “Making Space Accessible is an Act of Love for Our Communities.” I love this piece because it gives language to things that I believe deeply. For example, Piepzna-Samarasinha writes, “I think that crip solidarity, and solidarity between crips and non(yet)-crips is a powerful act of love and I-got-your-back. It’s in big things, but it’s also in the little things we do moment by moment to ensure that we all—in all our individual bodies—get to be present fiercely as we make change” (1).


In response to this piece, I thought about creating an access project. I am a member of SEAC (Student Event Accessibility Committee)—a group founded by two students who took this class!—and we wanted to do an accessibility audit around campus to get more information about what Haverford College needs to do in order to better serve their disabled students. We planned to give this information the accessibility consultant that IDEA (Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Access) was hiring.


However, midterms and my disability delayed me somewhat. Waiting to complete this project ended up being a good thing because I actually met the consultant. Her name is Lakeisha Meyer (she/her):, who works at Bucknell University and will do some more site visits in the fall. SEAC met with with her on April 25, where she talked about, yes, creating more individual accessibility measures, but also ways of repairing the existing system so as to not perpetuate accessibility issues.


The Project 

I wrote an email to Lakeisha (linked here) containing some of my thoughts on addressing systemic access problems at Haverford. You all should be able to comment on the document. I won’t send it until we come balance in the fall, so your suggestions can and will be taken into account until then! I’m excited to see where this project goes from here!



cds6's picture

Wow Grace I absolutely love it. Talk about translating classroom lessons into actionable steps. I really love how you outlined where the inspiration is coming from as Piepzna-Samarasinha's quote similarly has struck me. Your specific critiques of Haverford's accessibility are spot on. And it vaguely reminds me of the demands that the Gallaudet University's Office of Campus Design's desire to realign the building architecture with DeafSpace. The wider hallways, doors, and ramps would benefit the notable minority on campus as you mentioned. But that would take away from the point. The college should be making these changes not for the reason of accomodating a larger audience... they really should do it because the ADA legally requires it and care enough about ALL their students. In addition, I really enjoyed the tone of your email. Very honest and raw. Getting directly to the point in these situations is the best route forward.

Your idea for the program sounds really interesting and radical (in the best way). I like how you acknowledge not everyone may want to participate in spotting the inaccessibiltiies of Haverford and its buildings, but I do not think i can think of a more keen eye than those who experience the reprecussions from the inaccessibilities. Interestingly, I know someone who took this class a year ago and they made a map of the campus, marking routes for acccess entrances and other notably inaccessibly landmarks on campus to avoid. Maybe in collaboration, you could pull the map out from this class's archive and hash out specific in each building as a long-term project! 

If you have the time/could continue to communicate with Lakeisha, I would also add that these elevators frequently need repairing that requires a mechanic who is trained to look at these ancient elevators. I honestly think the school would benefit in the long run from investing the time now to renovate them and buying into a longer lifetime for them. In addition, I do not think they have a regular enough schedule carrying out maintenance checks for the elevators and even the door accessibility buttons(half the time I wonder if they work when I press them). I know when I had my knee surgery and was on crutches for a while, it was so difficult and mentally taxing needing to route the only accessible entrances to buildings. It is even more frustrating when those devices fail to work. I am glad to hear that the IDEA is having a accessibility consultant on board. Feels like steps in the right direction, being able to hear from someone whose perspective and worldview is centered around disabled bodies and their needs.

Keep up the great work -- really excited for your project!! 

- Sadie 

Gabriel-Lucky Charms-Morillo's picture

Hello Grace! I hope all is well. It is a shame that Haverford students like yourself need to raise awareness of the college's inaccessibility issues. It should be the college's responsibility to fulfill its Quaker mission statement of promoting inclusivity, anti-prejudice, and accessibility for all communities. I don't know how Wendy can sleep at night knowing that student activists must do her and the administration's jobs. Here are a few suggestions to help you all: Lloyd is one of the most inaccessible buildings on the entire campus. There's a front step in front of Lloyd that prevents anyone from even going inside. Say that a person manages to go inside, he/she/they will be immediately met with stairs. There's no access to the first floor, worse than Kim and Tritton. I know this same story is also the case for other buildings. If Haverford is an inclusive place for all communities, especially marginalized ones like the disabled community, it must do better by listening, valuing, and empowering activists like you, Grace. Thank you and others for taking the initiative!