Injured students find ways to get around campus 

Devon Crane and Paul Hathaway speak about their experiences getting around BYU campus with injuries. Injured students have a difficult time navigating campus but are able to find ways to manage. (Annika Ohran).

Life as a BYU student gets a lot more complicated if a student sustains a serious injury.

With a campus of more than one square mile surrounded by hills and stairs, getting to and from class can be challenging for students with limited mobility. An injury can disrupt a student’s life and academic progress, and students who get injured during the semester may not be prepared to deal with their injury. 

University Accessibility Center Director Ed Martinelli said the center typically sees a couple dozen injured students each semester, with the most students during the winter semester. While some injured students find their own way to handle their classes, Martinelli said he encourages them to come to the UAC for help getting around campus if they need it, as there are some services the university offers that could be useful. 

For Devon Crane, a sophomore who broke his leg at the beginning of fall semester, getting to and around campus has been challenging, but manageable. After getting surgery on his leg, Crane used a knee scooter to get around. He said the sidewalks on the way to campus aren’t great, and after almost falling a couple of times he opted to start driving to campus. 

Crane was able to obtain a temporary disabled parking pass through the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles. Disabled parking passes allow parking on campus in any A, C, G, or Y lot, as well as time zones, if designated disability parking stalls are unavailable. Being able to park on campus made things much easier for Crane, although he still faced challenges in navigating campus. 

“The hardest part of my day is just like, getting through doors,” Crane said. “Doors and stairs.” 

At first, Crane was unable to put any weight on his leg, so he would have to find elevators and take a winding path around campus. But overall, things have been manageable, Crane said. And people on campus have been very willing to help and open doors for him. 

Crane said in regard to his schoolwork, his injury has actually been a blessing, as he has had to slow down, plan his day a little bit more and just sit and do homework.

Crane was dedicated to his schoolwork and planned to walk on his leg if he needed to to get to class. He never considered dropping his classes or trying to do things online, which is a recourse some students have to take. 

The university offers some services to help injured students through the UAC. While temporary injuries do not qualify as disabilities, Martinelli said the services the UAC provides for disabled students can also help with the challenges faced by temporarily injured students. 

Students with temporary conditions can fill out a form on the UAC website to set up an appointment to request services, including volunteer note takers or resources to help with mobility challenges. Their “Campus Traveler” program provides student volunteers who can accompany injured or disabled students to classes and help them carry their books or push their wheelchair. 

There is also a remote attendance process through the UAC for students who have no other options, although complete remote attendance is rarely approved. Students with temporary conditions are advised to reach out to their professors for remote options.

Paul Hathaway is a BYU senior who had surgery on his knee at the beginning of the semester. Since Hathaway was aware of his situation before the semester started, he was able to sign up for mostly online classes and get accommodations from professors. 

“I had to walk around with this just super immobilizing brace that just kept my legs super straight, which makes walking really hard, riding in cars hard … going to campus was off the table for a little while,” Hathaway said. 

Hathaway was frustrated by his attempts to get accommodations for a required G.E. class, where he emailed a professor and called the college’s office and left a message, but didn’t hear back. However, many of the professors he reached out to were helpful and communicated whether or not they would be able to assist him in attending class virtually. 

Hathaway said that once he was more mobile, getting to campus was difficult because of the surrounding hills. To find an accessible way to campus, he either had to walk to the Tanner Building or the Life Sciences Building to take an elevator that brought him up to campus, as he still couldn’t take stairs or walk up hills. 

According to Hathaway, once a student gets to campus, there can still be challenges due to classes being far apart from each other, depending on a student’s major.

“If I had a normal schedule that could involve walking from like the JKB over to the MARB or the Wilkinson Center, like it could just be a lot of walking just because classes aren’t like concentrated,” Hathaway said. 

BYU is designed as a walking campus, with parking access mainly on the outskirts of campus, which is part of why it can be difficult for students with limited mobility to get around. 

“I would say it’s a pleasant campus to walk around with, if you have like two good legs. Otherwise maybe things are a little bit spread out,” Hathaway said.

The university has made great strides over the years in making certain areas of campus more accessible, according to Martinelli, including a ramp south of the library and a ramp leading to the Wilkinson Center. 

“I don’t know that there’s ever going to be a perfect solution,” Martinelli said. “I don’t know of a large college in America that doesn’t deal with those kinds of issues.” 

When students have a temporary injury or medical condition affecting their ability to get around campus, Martinelli said he encourages them to come to the UAC for help if they need it. 

“We’d hope that both professors and students would recognize there’s some things that we can provide and have a system to make happen that might be easier than the professor trying to figure out something new and different,” Martinelli said. 

Students can visit the University Accessibility Center website for more information about the services offered.

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