A new policy this semester has eliminated tram service around campus for disabled students.
In previous semesters, tram service was available to transport disabled students from building to building. Now trams will continue to transport students to and from parking lots B and C, but they will no longer provide building-to-building service. Trams will drop off and pick up students outside the main library entrance and the Sierra Nevada gym only. Trams will continue to provide service to the Verdugo Gym, the Fitness Center, and the Verdugo trailers.
The new policy, which went into effect Jan. 16, encourages disabled students to make it to classes on their own. A memo addressed to tram users with disabilities stated: “You will utilize elevators, ramps, and overhead bridges to instructional and administrative buildings.”
Now that the major construction projects are complete, supporters of the policy believe that it should be easier for disabled students to get around. With the opening of Plaza Vaquero, students will have access to more ramps, elevators, and walkways that link buildings.
The policy is affecting most tram users; however, a few exceptions are being made for special circumstances.
The school currently operates four battery-powered trams, two of which recharge while the others transport students. Each tram carries up to three students and a driver. Of the approximately 1,350 disabled students enrolled at GCC, only about 100 have been dependent upon the tram services each year
Approximately $1 million a year goes to services that help disabled students. This semester alone about $1,400 has been spent to repair the trams.
“Some of the services we provide are very expensive,” said Joy Cook, associate dean of disabled students programs and services.
Cook doesn’t foresee the new policy as being a big problem for students on campus. “We’ve gotten very few complaints,” she said. “I don’t think that most students will find it to be a hardship.” She believes that the new policy will help disabled students gain more independence. “As a whole, I think that this is going to be a very positive step for students because we want them to be as independent as they can be,” she said.
Some students don’t seem to mind the new policy.
“As long as I can walk it I’ll be okay,” said Ellen Bowen, a blind student who uses the tram service. Because construction is finished, Bowen feels that she will have an easier time finding her way around campus. “It’s going to be a lot better now,” she said.
Other students, however, don’t have such positive feelings about the change. “The tram services were much more convenient from building to building,” said Constance Smith, a disabled student who is taking 11 units this semester. Smith has had trouble walking ever since a car accident injured her left ankle. She used the tram service last semester to help her make it to classes. However, because the building-to-building services are no longer available, she now walks to her classes.
“It’s stupid,” said John Albarran, another blind student, as he hurried to a class. “The tram should be serviced everywhere in school, not just certain places.” Although Albarran is able to make his way around campus quite well, with some help from his Seeing-Eye dog, he worries that not all students will be able to do the same. “Some students are not independent like me,” he said.