Students petition for accessibility

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Students with disabilities are currently petitioning to for better accessibility to the cafeteria. Steve Ferreira, a student and employee of Bellevue College, wrote a statement accompanying the petition. He said the cafeteria “is not very accessible for people who have difficulties walking and use a wheelchair. This is counter to the commitment that Bellevue College has made to its students with disabilities.” Ferreira said that the current setup of the cafeteria does not allow access for people with physical disabilities to enter the cafeteria, especially during busier hours when it is crowded.

The main issue behind this petition are the entrances. There are currently two available entrances, with cash registers in each of them. Originally, there was an island in the middle of both the entrances with two registers on both sides, so there were four possible checkout lines. This blocked any sort of entrance for people with mobility issues. This problem was brought to the cafeteria services, and in response they moved an island against the wall, so that there was only one cash register in that entrance and more room. Ferreira, who uses a wheelchair said, “The old layout – they had four lines on each side, and it was really hard to get into the cafeteria, and I was bumping into people. People were getting mad.” Ferreira and others want the cafeteria to completely rearrange the cash registers and machines blocking the entrance and also open up the third entrance, which is currently blocked off. Ferreira goes to the cafeteria frequently, and this is a daily issue for him. “We need to resolve this,” he said, “so that it’s safer and more efficient for people with disabilities.”

Ferreira and others involved with the petition say that the cafeteria does not comply with regulations that ensure accessibility to students with disabilities. “There are many laws that Bellevue College must comply with in order to fulfill this commitment [to students with disabilities]. They are the “the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2008, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.” Ferreira said in his statement.

This issue first came to light when students told Stephanie Rowe, a program assistant at Bellevue College, about issues they had getting into the cafeteria when it is busy. She referred this issue to Susan Gjolmesli, director of the Disability Resource Center, and Faisal Jaswal, the Dean of Student Programs. Gjolmesli, Jaswal, Ferreira and others met with the Head of Food Services Todd Juvrud. After that meeting, there were efforts to make the cafeteria easier to enter, but Ferreira and Rowe say that this wasn’t enough.

Rowe said that the college needs to do more to ensure that the cafeteria is compliant with laws and accessible for all. “A few years ago, when I first started going to school here, there were three entrances to the cafeteria,” she says. The first one has been closed off. It was ADA compliant, but food services had packed so many machines into that entrance it was no longer compliant.” Rowe says that those behind this petition want that entrance opened back up, and the machines moved so that it becomes an accessible entrance. “The petition is just some leverage for us, as far as giving it to the higher up people on campus to move forward giving students more access to the cafeteria. More than just moving the register and the lines.”

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