History vs. inclusivity

By C.C. Mongrain

Student Reporter

The shining Art Deco-style terrazzo floors stretch down alabaster and crimson brick hallways to the classrooms and offices of Ordway Hall. 

The terracotta gnomes outside of Ordway read and write as diligently as they did in 1937. The 87-year-old walnut doors leading to each classroom, restroom and office of Ordway evoke the dark academia aesthetic of a time past.

But those walnut doors won’t open for everyone. “Technically, there is no upstairs access through Ordway,” said Mary Dodson, an instructor in the English Department. “All of our classes are upstairs.”

For those living with a mobility related disability, navigating Ordway Hall (the home of English-1301, 1302 and the Writer’s Corner) can prove challenging.

As a Texas historic landmark, Ordway Hall is protected from the updates and renovations seen around campus. Dutton Hall, which is not a historic landmark, has an elevator that will allow access to the second floor of Ordway via a connecting hallway. The solitary “push” door to the “interconnect,” as it is labeled, is not an automatic or push-to-open activation door.

The dimly lit alcove connecting Dutton and Ordway is a pathway paved with broken linoleum tiles that curl and crack underfoot. The door intended for “accessibility” into Ordway’s second floor is also not an automatic door. This door, however, is pull-to-open, adding another hurdle for those with disabilities concerning mobility.

“That hallway is sketchy,” said Ramses Boukinda, a Mechanical Engineering major and peer mentor. “For Ordway in particular, we have worked with other departments, staff and faculty to provide students with mobility impairments access to classes on the first floor of the building,” said Jerri Peacock Najera, coordinator of disability services at Amarillo College.

“We only have one, legit classroom downstairs. It can be problematic. It’s still difficult right now,” said Dodson. “I don’t know where we are in fixing the problem.”

 “AC reconstructed 12 restrooms to be ADA compliant and all projects have, as a minimum, upgraded the ADA facilities noted as needing modifications,” Danny Smith, Master Plan Program Manager, said. 

Restrooms in Ordway are void of push-to-open activation switches, protected by the historical marker that was erected by the Texas Historical Convention in 2008 at the West entrance. It is unclear whether renovations will be made to improve the Dutton interconnect to Ordway Hall to aid with accessibility.

Najera said the majority of students she serves are satisfied with the accommodations that AC provides. “The students we serve provide us with verbal feedback regularly and are provided opportunities to complete satisfaction surveys for their experiences with our office and their services,” she said. “They feel happy and supported in the services they receive.”

Najera credits much of the student satisfaction to the instructors at AC. “We are fortunate to have instructors who go above and beyond to support all students. We are thankful to have so many wonderful instructors who truly listen to the students, their needs and ensure an inclusive and welcoming environment for our students,” Najera said. 

The Disability Services department provides an accessibility map for each of Amarillo College’s seven campuses that can be found on their webpage. It should be noted that the map provides markings for all entrances, but does not distinguish which are handicap entrances. Handicap parking is however, denoted. 

Students with disabilities are encouraged to speak with Disability Services if they feel their needs are not being met, as well as speaking with their instructors.

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