Bobcat Accessible: An Ethnographic Study of Manual Wheelchair Use as it Relates to ADA Accessibility and Design at Texas State University
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This ethnographic study examines campus accessibility for individuals with physical disabilities, specifically manual wheelchairs users at Texas State University, from a first-hand, personal perspective. The large size and drastic elevation changes on the campus property makes it extremely difficult for manual wheelchairs users to traverse the campus. This qualitative study incorporates the researcher’s month long participatory observation with using a manual wheelchair on campus, attending the 2015 ADA Compliance Committee meeting at Texas State, and conducting an interview with the Director of Design, Construction, and Planning at Texas State and ADA Committee member, Mr. Michael Petty. After coding and indexing the interviews and data, four main themes emerged from this study; 1) difficulty of the campus terrain; 2) ADA compliance and accessibility; 3) the overabundance of students; and 4) overall student awareness. Findings show that Texas State is indeed a very difficult campus for manual wheelchair users, not only because of vast size and rolling hills, but also because of the incredibly large number of students and cramped physical space. The student overcrowding was a major factor in a lack of general accessibility around the campus, which resulted in being a significant source of frustration during the study. Although there are numerous challenges that exist, ADA compliance and ADA accessibility throughout campus is very good. Both ADA features around the college and the ADA Committee members provide positive elements of accessibility to the university and should continue to strive to meet student needs.