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Slushy conditions cause difficult passage for disabled student


A formal complaint has been filed on the behalf of a Grand Rapids Community College student who was unable to get his wheelchair up a snow-covered, handicap-accessible ramp between Cook Hall and the Main Building.


Elliot Keyes, 20, of Grand Rapids, was born with a spinal condition and uses a wheelchair around campus while awaiting an upcoming leg surgery. On Jan. 24, Keyes was heading to his morning class when he said he experienced difficulty navigating Bostwick Commons.

“When I got there, I noticed immediately that the courtyard between Student Activities Center and the Main and Cook buildings …was very slushy,” Keyes said. “That whole courtyard is in a downward slope, and…even though I was holding my wheels (breaks), I was not stopping. I just kept sliding down the hill until I gained some kind of traction when there was less slush.

“When I got to the ramp between Cook Hall and Main Building, I noticed that there was a pile of snow, and it was covering part of the entrance of the ramp. It (the ramp) looked like it had not been shoveled but just somebody had thrown a lot of salt on it instead.”

Keyes said he was not able to get up the ramp. He was spinning his wheels and going nowhere when a fellow student helped him up. After attending class, he stopped by the Enrollment Center and complained to a student at the desk.

“He said, ‘Have you gone to Disability Services?’ which I thought was an odd response because it’s not a Disability Services issue. It’s more of a janitorial issue.” Keyes said he asked the student to make a phone call and then left until the next day.

“When I got there (the next day), the whole courtyard was shoveled. Everything was clean. There was no snow in front of the ramp, but the ramp was the only thing that was not shoveled…which really, really caught me by surprise. I was really unimpressed, and I was disappointed.”

Keyes said he was able to push through the snow this time, though it was difficult. He talked to a supervisor in the Enrollment Center who Keyes said was very apologetic and filed a complaint for him.

This complaint was filed in the wake of campus-wide training focused on improving access for students with disabilities. Keyes also emailed three people with his concern, including Tina Hoxie, dean of Student Affairs, and Tom Smith, executive director of Facilities.

“He (Smith) appreciated the student bringing the concern to his attention,” Hoxie said. “He has contacted the appropriate individuals to ensure that the ramps are clear of snow and that all students can gain entry into the facilities.”


After yesterday’s snowstorm, the ramp was shovelled clean.

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