Jennifer Liu, '23, gets on the AccessLU shuttle with her mom’s help. She went to class by the accessibility shuttle every day this week. (Yijie Zhang/B&W Staff)

Students find assistance, issues with AccessLU

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Mark Reiser picks up students with accessibility limitations on Feb. 12, 2020, at Richards House. Reiser is the driver of AccessLU. (Yijie Zhang/ B&W Staff)

The AccessLU shuttle program is an on-demand service created to aid those with injuries, disabilities or any other accessibility limitation as accommodations for Lehigh’s infamous hills and stairs. 

AccessLU is equipped with a wheelchair lift and is able to reach the car-free areas of campus, as long as the student or faculty member requests a pick-up or drop-off time and location.

Not all students with injuries or disabilities need or use the service.

Noah Nickens, ‘23, is legally blind, but said this has not stopped him from being able to walk around campus or access academic buildings.

Nickens said while he was hoping Lehigh would be more accessible, it was not an impeding factor in his decision to attend.

“The disability support services are really amazing,” Nickens said. “They were able to get back to me before I applied here and, when I got accepted, they helped me out even when I came back for events like Diversity Life (Weekend) and before classes started in the fall. They got me an orientation mobility instructor to help me orient myself around campus. I meet with them every week.” 

This wheelchair accessible ramp was recently installed in Centennial II Complex, a first-year housing option. The new ramp helps handicapped students into the dorms. (Yijie Zhang/B&W Staff)

 

Wesley Guarneri, ‘23, said he currently wears a cast and uses crutches for his temporary injury.  Guarneri said he has been using AccessLU to get around campus to avoid stairs. He said the service is  accommodating to students who need last-minute rides.

Bob Bruneio, manager of Transportation Services, said AccessLU is not just for Lehigh students and staff, but it will pick up anyone visiting the university. 

“You would call the on-demand service, and they would pick you up from where you are parked,” Bruneio said. “They don’t need an ID to get on, but it’s first come, first serve.” 

Guarneri said there is only one AccessLU bus, which sometimes leads to complications.

He said it would be more helpful to have another bus as, oftentimes, multiple students need to be picked up at different locations across campus during times when classes get out.

The Campus Connector and Packer Express buses also have a wheelchair ramp and serve as possible alternatives for students.

Sarinah Baptiste, ‘23, is currently recovering from surgery. She was not yet able to apply for AccessLU, and she felt that it was confusing for her to find clear directions on how to get an AccessLU tag for temporary users. 

She said one night, after she called the on-demand number, she was not able to be picked up, and she even called LUPD to connect her to Transportation Services. Forty minutes later, she said she called a friend to drive her back to her dorm.

“Sometimes, I feel like it is just less work to just walk to class because I have to sign up for each individual time I need to use AccessLU,” Baptiste said. “It’s just too much.” 

Nickens said the Lehigh app is not very convenient. He said it’s difficult for the screen reader, a device used for the blind or visually impaired to read text on a computer screen, to navigate it, especially when the screen is zoomed in.

“I know that Lehigh is a very old campus, and they are definitely improving from what people told me,” Nickens said. “I’m just hoping for the future that they can get more accessibility in.”

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