We are three University of Georgia students who are working on a project to make UGA’s Arch handicapped accessible by having a ramp built through it.
The tradition at UGA since 1910 is, once graduates receive their diploma, they are permitted to walk underneath the Arch. Any student who walks under the Arch prior to graduation will be cursed by the UGA gods and won’t graduate. The Arch symbolizes a figurative and literal transition from the campus into the community.
Presently, there are six steps leading up to the Arch and no ramp. Thus, students who have a mobility impairment—such as using a wheelchair, walker, scooter, crutches or cane—and have issues with stairs are unable to partake in one of the most humbling UGA experiences. In addition, older or mobility-impaired alumni who visit campus, especially during football season, can no longer join in the tradition.
We believe in change and creating equal access. We have talked with several members of the university administration as well as the Disability Resource Center representatives on campus, who have been trying to make this happen for many years but always get shot down. However, we are receiving resistance from the head administrators, who are considering providing a temporary ramp during commencement activities but not a permanent one. We, the people for equal access, do not stand for temporary and insist upon a permanent solution for all alumni.
Our goal is to preserve the Arch’s steps and history as much as possible and make only a slight enhancement to it. The proposed design for the ramp would go under one of the side pillars and down the side—going straight down the center is too steep and thus does not comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. We don’t just want access to the Arch, though. We want to be able to walk or roll under it.
The issue here is not ADA compliance. Access into North campus is available just a block away. This is also not just about not being able to partake in one of the most humbling UGA experiences. Nor is it a financial or technical issue. The real issue is limiting graduates who have achieved the exact same goal as their able-bodied peers.
This isn’t just three students voicing an opinion. It is a whole community. As of Feb. 23, 2014, we have:
• 1,900 likes on our Facebook page.
• 3,000 student signatures.
• 703 signatures on a change.org online petition.
• made a YouTube video.
In addition, on Mar. 2, 2014, we had an interview with USA Today and hope to make this issue go national.
Due to our campaign’s media buzz, we hope that the university will listen and take seriously the community’s voice on creating a permanent solution.
This issue is discussed by the university every four or five years and has been shot down every time, so we decided to take charge and stand for change. We want to put this issue to rest once and for all and pave the way for future generations. We want to see all alumni pass through the Arch with pride and confidence.
Building a permanent ramp through the Arch will show that the university is a leader in creating equal access and wholeheartedly treats all of its family the same regardless of their physical conditions.
By graduation 2015, we want to see all the smiling faces of those who are able to walk under the Arch with pride and confidence regardless of their mobility or abilities.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.