Due in large part to the actions of three Miami University students, the Goggin Ice Center plans to make its facilities a better place for disabled patrons beginning in the 2007-08 school year.
Currently, the building meets requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, having a sufficient number of wheelchair accessible ramps and seating space. However, according to Miami students Kaitlyn Baker, Taylor Wessels and Tim McCue, simply meeting ADA guidelines is not sufficient to serve those at Miami who are disabled. McCue, a hockey fan and first-year graduate student at Miami, experienced Goggin’s lack of accessibility firsthand at a hockey game this year. McCue, who is in a wheelchair, went to the first exhibition hockey game of the season expecting to sit with his friends-in the student section.
“I had heard that hockey games were a really exciting experience,” McCue said. “I was told that everybody gets really into the games.”
However, to his disappointment, the only areas for wheelchair seating were in the community seating section in a corner of the arena.
McCue said he was forced to sit through the game by himself and could not experience the game as a member of Miami’s student section.
When told about the situation, Baker and Wessels, McCue’s friends and classmates, decided that immediate change was necessary.
“If we let it wait,” Baker said, “who knows how many handicapped students would miss out on the complete Miami hockey experience.”
At first, it was difficult to make progress on the issue. Initially, Miami’s assistant athletic director Josh Fenton simply offered Baker free tickets to sit next to McCue at the next hockey game. Baker then explained to Fenton that she was not concerned with being able to sit with a friend, but for all of Miami’s disabled students to be treated as equals, and be allowed to sit and cheer in the student section of Goggin.
Baker and Wessels were also in contact with Barry Schutte, the director of the Goggin Ice Center. According to the students, the only real responses they received from Schutte and Fenton stated that, since the arena meets ADA guidelines, the university does not have to do anything to change the seating arrangement.
Wessels, however, was able to inform the administrators of a clause in the act, which states that a disabled individual must receive equal treatment-a meeting was arranged immediately.
Baker, Wessels and McCue met with Schutte and Fenton Oct. 10, and the students were all pleased with the outcome. In the short term, they said, it was agreed upon that McCue would sit among students in a small, open area in the section of the arena designated for Red Alert, Miami’s athletic fan club, members. Seats next to the space have also been allocated for a small number of McCue’s companions. Also, seats in the student section similar to the one arranged for McCue will soon be marked as disability accessible seats.
According to the three students, the Goggin Ice Center plans to reevaluate its seating situation and hopes to make the arena a better place for all Miami students, as well as community members. A proposed long-term solution, they said, is to move the student section so it would encompass a part of the space reserved for disabled seating. Baker, Wessels and McCue all plan to take part in discussions on the center’s long-term plans for seating.
Kathy MacMahon-Klosterman, the three students’ Introduction to Disability Studies instructor, was very proud of their efforts.
“I see this as one of those rarer moments when students recognize a problem, take immediate action and get a positive outcome,” she said. “They deserve recognition for that.”