Students at Virginia Tech university staged a “sit out” by blocking a newly built staircase because they say it isn’t accessible to disabled people.
The controversial new 20-step staircase was built as a replacement for an old staircase the university closed down due to the construction of a new dorm on campus.
The problem with the stairs, however, is that they don’t have a ramp for disabled people—meaning disabled students have to use a route which takes about three minutes longer.
“Stairs Not Accessible, Stairs Not Acceptable,” read one placard at the protest. “They said ‘invent the future!’ but they just rebuilt the past!(?)” read another.
Rather than channeling frustration into action to have more ramps built for disabled people, the activists blocked everyone from using the staircase and directed them to another route to ensure people “start thinking about access.”
Martina Svyantek, a graduate student who co-chairs the disability and alliance caucus that organized the sit out, has questioned the point of building the stairs at all, if it can’t be used by everyone, according to a local newspaper.
On the decision to block people from using the stairs, she added: “We want people to ask themselves what happens when you can’t use the stairs. I want people to start thinking about access.”
Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski, however, noted that it was hard to build a ramp as the stairs are too steep and the hill has utility lines and steam tunnels. “We are not in Kansas,” he added. “This is not a flat place.”