Virginia Tech students physically block staircase because it discriminates against the handicapped

Virginia Tech students physically block staircase because it discriminates against the handicapped
Students at Virginia Tech say a new set of stairs is unfair to disabled people. (Jared Soares/Getty Images)

Students at Virginia Tech University participated in a “sit out” demonstration Thursday afternoon to protest a new set of stairs that are not “handicap accessible.”

For safety reasons, the university closed the old set of stairs after breaking ground on the construction of new dormitories, but built a separate staircase to allow students access to the same area during the construction. In order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the same area is accessible to students with disabilities via a different route, however, it lengthens the trip by about three minutes, according to Heat Street.

Some students were not satisfied with the arrangement and showed their disdain by barricading the new set of stairs in what they called a “sit out.” The protesters would not let anyone walk up the 20-step staircase, holding up signs, some of which read, “Stairs not accessible, stairs not acceptable” and “Invent a future that includes disabled people.”


Co-chair of the disability and alliance caucus Martina Svyantek said the group wanted to bring attention to the daily life of a disabled person.

“We want people to ask themselves what happens when you can’t use the stairs,” she said. “I want people to start thinking about access.”

Virginia Tech professor Ashley Shew, an amputee, said there are problems with the current layout of the campus.

“If I get tenure, I’ll spend decades walking around every building on this campus,” she said. “You feel like a second-class citizen when you have to take the long way.”

According to the Roanoke Times, university officials maintain that it wasn’t possible to build a ramp next to the stairs, citing the level of incline and the utility lines and steam tunnels making that option unworkable.

After being forced to take the longer route, some students said it helped them better understand what disabled students deal with every day.

“It’s difficult to even find a way around,” said Virginia Tech senior Samantha Spytek. “It’s revealing.”

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