BY KELLY LEWICKI // FEBRUARY 15, 2019 //
You may have noticed the addition of some four-legged friends to our campus community.
Isabella Scott, a freshman Biology major, is legally blind. She was born with a juvenile form of macular degeneration. “It’s genetic, and started showing when I was around 8 years old. It affects my central vision, as well as some of my peripheral vision.” According to Scott, it can be explained as if someone were to put a thin layer of Vaseline over your eyes, preventing you from seeing clearly.
For the last year, her guide dog, O’Hara, has been by her side, giving her the independence she’s always wanted.
“I put all of my trust into her four paws.”
Scott takes pride in having always taken care of O’Hara entirely on her own. But since moving onto campus, she has discovered a challenge to taking care of a dog in a college dorm room: dogs sometimes have accidents.
While service dogs are extremely well-trained, house training included, accidents do happen. And when that does happen, Scott is left to try to clean it up. And each time she can’t, she faces up to a $50 cleaning fee.
“Although I have some vision, I will still explain it this way: Imagine putting a blindfold on and then being asked to clean throw up off of a rug,” she said.
The color and material of Scott’s carpeted floors make it even more difficult for her to see what she is doing. Ultimately, Scott would like Curry College to move away from carpeting in its residence halls altogether, saying they’re generally unsanitary to begin with.
Jen Maitino, the director of Residence Life & Housing on campus, said while she is in favor of the move away from carpet flooring, it would be costly. “Certainly, it would not be cost-effective to go in and rip everything out all at once, especially in areas where it was recently replaced,” said Maitino. “However, it would be worth exploring how we approach alternative flooring as spaces come up for carpet replacement.”
The basement levels of a number of residence halls on campus — Mayflower, State House, Main House, and others — are already not carpeted, but some student leaders on campus feel it would be unfair to relegate disabled students to those undesirable rooms. Basement rooms are usually not carpeted due to moisture issues, which can cause mold and other allergens.
“Students with disabilities should always be prioritized in regards to housing and accessibility within our campus,” said Student Body President Rachel O’Donnell.
Although Scott has created an online petition to raise awareness of the issue — she is about halfway to her goal of 200 signatures — there doesn’t seem to be much progress being made on-campus in starting discussions about how to make the changes she seeks.
When asked about her knowledge of the campaign, O’Donnell revealed, “Unfortunately, until you are asking right now, there hasn’t been any mention of the petition or campaign to remove carpet from floors in [residence] halls during our student forum. Every Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. we meet in the Large Meeting Room and discuss various student concerns and topics, and this should most certainly be one of them.”
For more information about Scott’s petition, go to change.org.