RCC leads the charge at the starting line of the ADA race, but staggers in the backstretch.
Tyler Reese | Staff Writer
Riverside City College upgrades its accessibility after falling behind federal mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“Well, nothing’s easy when you’re in a wheelchair to access.” William Gonzalez said.
He’s a student who has been wheelchair bound since age 5 due to Spinal Bifida.
“I definitely have an issue with the bathrooms,” said Gonzalez. “I don’t feel that they’re very accessible. In the cafeteria they just remodeled them and they’re tiny as hell.”
In 1961 , Riverside Community College became the first public post-secondary institution in the country to begin a program of support services specifically for students with disabilities, according to the RCC website.
In the 52 years since, not enough has been done to keep the school up to date for those who cannot complete everyday tasks because of their disabilities.
“We usually have issues that come up because it’s an older college,” said Greg Ferrer, director of Disabled Student Programs and Services.
Adam King, an RCC student, was born with no tibia in both legs and was adopted from South Korea at the age of 4.
King has never tried to dwell on the hardships that face him, but would rather continue moving forward with a smile.
Like King, experienced students with disabilities at RCC have adapted to their surroundings and know how to navigate the campus.
RCC has it’s own Disabled Students Program & Services Office, which provides support for students with psychological, medical, mobility, deaf/hard of
hearing, learning or attention disabilities.
“Accessible pathways help everyone,” Ferrer said. “Not just the person who cannot take the stairs. Or perhaps the person for one day who needs to find an easier pathway down the hill or back up the hill.”
Many students have been stranded in non-accessible areas because no signs are posted around campus.
It’s a way to help those who are in need, but they don’t keep students up to date with a map of RCC that includes wheelchair and disability ramps.
The map of RCC, which can be found online or at the main office, contains limited information on where accessible paths of the college are.
“An accessibility map? No we don’t have an accessibility map,” Ferrer said. “That would be a fantastic. That would be a great resource to have. Usually it’s referred to as an accessibility map and we don’t have that currently, but that’s a great suggestion. That’s an easy fix so that everyone has a map and who
knows the accessibility pathway alternative.”
“What is the purpose of the signs?” said King. “I don’t see the purpose of it. I mean individuals with physical disabilities will find a way to get to their destination. I mean it would help, but I think new people will find a way to do it.”
The elevators at RCC are a help, but when they break it can be costly to everyone, especially for those with disabilities.
“My classes are pretty accessible when the elevators are working,” Gonzalez said. “I have most of my classes in the quad and the quad is pretty accessible when the elevators are working. I’ve missed class before because the elevators were broken. In the business building the elevator breaks down all the time. There was a guy stuck once in the business elevator.”
Ferrer does what he can for students when issues arise.
“When there are issues you know they call us to see if we can help out in anyway and different people from the campus try to get together to come up with solutions,” Ferrer said.
In addition to problems with pathways, the only ADA sized bathrooms are in the Math and Science buildings, but they can be far and time consuming to get to.
“The bathrooms in the Math and Science building are good,” Gonzalez said.“But it’s kind of hard when I need to go to the bathroom and I have to go all the way down there.”
RCC’s bleachers can accommodate a lot of people but they are inconvenient for those with wheelchairs or any physical disabilities.
“My friend was running for homecoming king and there’s really no accessibility to the bleachers,” Gonzalez said.
There is parking to accommodate the students of RCC but it’s difficult to go from the lot to a class in the center of the college.
The only way to go toward the center of the campus is to go up a long aisle of steps, up a hill or all the way around campus to the elevators.
“The other issue with the elevators is if I go this way it’s fine, it’ down hill,” said Gonzalez. “But to come back I have to go uphill or I have to go all the way around. I have to go up ramps to get to the elevator.That doesn’t make sense to me.”
In the event that a disabled student has to leave class because they forgot something in their car, which is parked in Parking Lot Y, they then have to make the journey all the way around campus to get there and back.
“It’s not that bad but I’ve seen other people in wheelchairs who have problems going up these steep ass hills,” said Gonzalez.
Parts of RCC have been under construction since the start of November and have been inconvenient for those coming to class or leaving campus.
“Now I would have to go all the way around campus just to get to the cafeteria,” said Gonzalez.
The construction is a widespread obstacle, especially to those with disabilities.
“Long term this is going to help you know every individual who steps on this campus disability or not,” Ferrer said.
“Curb cuts are a universal design. Now do I think they’re doing a god job? Yeah, I think there doing a good job. But there’s always going to be bumps in the road as we’re getting there.”