UCLA’s Center for Accessible Education is hardly accessible to the students who need to use its services.
Students who have difficulty traversing campus on foot because of disabilities or injuries that are temporary or long-term can use a van provided by CAE to get from the Hill to academic buildings. However, the center only operates one seven-person van to accommodate up to 60 rides per day.
The van is available from 7:20 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, and 7:20 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, and its schedule changes daily depending on riders’ class schedules. The van makes stops at the residence halls every 30 minutes and stops on campus on the hour. Riders must reserve the van at least one hour in advance between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but there is no guarantee the van will come at a specified time – it might come an hour earlier or later, said Nickey Woods, the interim director of CAE.
After CAE stops operating the van on weekdays, UCLA community service officers, who typically escort students walking home late, drive the van until 11 p.m. On the weekends, different UCLA ride service offices handle the program, and students must reserve rides 24 hours in advance.
Students who use the van for longer periods of time can submit their class schedule to CAE at the beginning of each quarter so it can route the van accordingly. However, students with a short-term need for the van must reserve it in advance and are not guaranteed specific ride times. The van may not be able to transport them at their desired time due to limited space, or it may be unable to accommodate them if students don’t schedule far enough in advance, Woods said.
To ensure any student who needs to use the service can ride a van when they need to, CAE and UCLA Transportation must invest in a second wheelchair-accessible van. UCLA Transportation has the ability to make it easier for students with mobility issues to get around campus.
In fact, there are students who, despite severe injuries and risk to their health, choose not to use the van service simply because it is too complicated to reserve due to limited space.
Michael Nunez, a second-year sociology student, suffered from five concussions in three years, some of which he experienced while attending UCLA. Nunez has been medically instructed to refrain from exerting himself, including walking excessively. Despite having the option to use the CAE van service, he relied on friends for transportation when he was recovering from his concussions because he found the van’s schedule inconvenient. He said he had to reserve it far in advance, but couldn’t always do so because of the nature of his injuries. So, the van was often fully booked at the time he needed it. Nunez found it more difficult to reserve and ride the van than to pay out of pocket for Uber or rely on peers to travel from his apartment to campus.
“It was just a hassle, and I avoided it at all costs,” Nunez said.
Though reserving the CAE van may seem like a niche issue that only affects a small number of students, Woods said the van gives 40 to 60 rides per day. Adding a second van could make an immense difference for students who rely on this transportation to access campus.
Erin Clem, a second-year psychology student, has used the van service since fall quarter because of a foot surgery that kept her from walking. Clem said she gets out of class at 12:15 p.m. on some days, but cannot get a ride back to her dorm until 1 p.m.
This may not sound like a big deal, but no student should be stuck planning around the operating schedule of a single inefficient and overcrowded van. Most students are able to move back and forth between campus and their residence at their own leisure, and students with injuries or disabilities should be empowered to do the same.
UCLA Transportation and CAE offices need to make the investment in a second van to accommodate the demand for van services. UCLA spokesperson Jessica Wolf said via email that the CAE van is financed by UCLA Transportation’s Fleet Service, which rents vans out for transportation around campus and Los Angeles. Therefore, UCLA Transportation should make the move to allow students greater mobility and a guarantee of van services regardless of the cost.
Students with disabilities or injuries that are temporary or long-term should have equal access to our campus. The fact that CAE and UCLA Transportation haven’t spent the money to ensure universal accessibility and mobility shows that students’ needs aren’t being prioritized as they should be.
CAE offices geared toward making our campus more accessible should live up to their name and ensure that all Bruins are able to navigate the campus with ease.