At the Bathroom Justice Panel in McKeldin Library Oct. 27, which met to discuss bathroom accessibility on campus, panel attendees said University of Maryland bathrooms do not adequately accommodate disabled students, despite meeting the standards of the American’s with Disabilities Act.
The University of Maryland invited AECOM architect Gadi Romem to speak at the panel. Romem, who investigated several bathrooms across campus prior to speaking at the panel, said that many of the university’s bathrooms meet ADA standards. He said the quality of the university’s bathrooms impressed him, feeling the university was doing a good job in accommodating disabled students.
However, Romem’s positive sentiment was met with skepticism from panel attendees. Romem praised a wheelchair accessible bathroom in the chemistry building for its adherence to ADA code, saying it has spacious stalls with supportive railings for those in wheelchairs. But a student in the room pointed out that this bathroom is located in the basement of the chemistry building, inconveniently placed for any wheelchair user on another floor. Romem said ADA standards do not require Wheel chair accessible bathrooms be present on every floor of a building.
Graduate student Angel Love Miles, who uses a wheelchair herself, was the most outspoken attendee of the night. She said that while Maryland bathrooms meet ADA standards, those standards fail to adequately meet the needs of individuals like herself. Miles pointed out that often times the toilet seats in Maryland bathrooms are too high for easy wheelchair-to-seat transfer, and the soap dispensers in the bathrooms tend to be located out of reach for smaller individuals or those in a wheelchair.
Though, Miles’ biggest criticism with the bathroom situation on campus was directed at the student body. She said that because wheelchair-accessible stalls are more spacious, university students without disabilities will often use them instead of the more confining standard stalls.
But the problem with this, she said, is that the more these stalls are used, the dirtier and more worn they get. And while student without a disability can always use one of the other stalls, if the sole wheel-chair accessible stall in a bathroom falls into disrepair, a disabled student has no other options.