Built into the side of a mountain, Lehigh is littered with slopes and stairs that limited accessibility for students with physical disabilities. Among the developments in the Path to Prominence initiative is the formation of a new, handicap-accessible tour route for prospective students.
Lauren Cunningham, assistant director of admissions, said the route was introduced by the Admissions Office to create a more efficient, handicap-friendly tour around Lehigh’s changing campus.
The new route includes stops at Linderman Library, Williams Hall, Lower Cents, Zoellner Arts Center, Rauch Business Center and Wilbur Powerhouse. There will now be three tours a day, rather than the previous two a day, since the new route is shorter than it used to be.
Tour guide Isabella Romano, ’21, said some of the buildings eliminated from the new route were important places on campus. For example, Hawks Nest, which she attributes to deep-rooted history and traditions, was a stop cut from the new tour. However, she enjoys the new route’s accessibility.
“I think what makes the tour is the stories you tell,” Romano said. “If, as a tour guide, I’m doing my job, they should get the same experience and still fall in love with the campus just as much. I can still tell all the stories that make Lehigh amazing and all the pivotal things that I think change peoples’ minds about Lehigh or solidify that this is the school they want to go to.”
Romano once led a tour with a prospective student’s family member who had leg braces and struggled to make it up the steps around campus.
She said the tour will more effectively showcase the campus to potential students because they won’t struggle to climb stairs.
Tour guide Vaneck Kounga, ’20, enjoys the new route because it allows tour guides to show Lehigh to a wider, more inclusive audience.
“I think it’s a positive change because we’re showing off the school to a lot more people,” Kounga said.
Although the new route makes Lehigh appear more accessible and could increase the number of students who tour the campus, it may mislead students who have disabilities.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword,” Romano said. “It’s great that the tour is more accessible, but we don’t want to give off the impression that we are an accessible school, because we are not a very accessible school. We’re working really hard to make it that way, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Kounga said because many academic buildings are in close proximity to each other, and Lehigh is constantly making improvements to maximize accessibility, the route won’t falsely advertise the level of accessibility around campus.
He prefers the new route to the old one.
“I think it’s an accurate representation of the topography of our campus,” Cunningham said. “Unfortunately, we are built into the side of a mountain, so we try and be as accommodating as possible.”
The tour is meant to be an introduction to campus exploration, and prospective students are encouraged the further explore Lehigh on their own.