Testimony by Manu Thakral for Parking Bargaining delivered on October 31, 2018.
I am a newly appointed Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences on Sept. 1, 2018. I am requesting that the accessible parking spots in the Campus Center be exempt from the proposed surcharge for parking on campus and instead be the same cost as off-campus parking. This accommodation can be accomplished within the University’s current parking system by allowing me to purchase a parking pass at the cost of off-campus parking.
Why I need this accommodation:
My disability requires that I use a manually propelled wheelchair 100% of the time. This circumstance makes it difficult for me to traverse long distances, in particular through snow. My job performance is directly related to the ease of access to campus because being on campus increases my availability to students, potential to build collaborative partnerships with other faculty, and receive mentorship. Currently I drive my car to campus and park under the Campus Center, which provides the best access to my office in the Science Center Building. I don’t use public transportation because the MBTA station at JFK/UMass has a very long ramp with multiple levels that is not possible for me to cross with my wheelchair. I teach a freshman seminar course on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have scheduled meetings on Wednesdays,which require that I commute to campus at least three times a week. Being junior faculty, I also want to engage in professional development activities on campus, especially in teaching. Increasing the parking rate of my preferred accessible parking will decrease my ability to access the campus and negatively affect my job performance.
Why the current off-campus parking does not meet my needs:
Accessible parking at the off-campus site at Bayside Expo is limited to 20 spots for all faculty, staff and students. The shuttle to and from this site is very crowded and the parking is uncovered. In bad weather conditions, these spots are not accessible. If I were to park at Bayside and there was any accumulation of snow on my car, I wouldn’t be able to clean the snow off my car. If there is snow on the ground, it is a huge burden for me to push my wheelchair. Access from the West Garage is limited because the closest accessible entrance is either the ISC lobby or freight entrance to the Quinn Building across the street and up the ramp. This area is also difficult to traverse in rain or snow using my wheelchair. That leaves the accessible parking spots under the Campus Center as the only covered parking available that provides underground access to all of the main buildings without having to push my wheelchair a far distance or through inclement weather.
Because the cost of parking under the Campus Center is proposed to increase above the lower rate offered at the off-campus parking site, and because this is the only reasonable option for me to park given my disability, I am requesting equal opportunity to pay the lower rate for parking as other commuters.
At the risk of losing you, I want to say, when people look at me, they think: wow, how can she be a nurse and use a wheelchair? It makes people rethink what nursing is and acknowledge that maybe they aren’t aware of all the possibilities of what a nurse can do. That is what is amazing about diversity. My presence on campus can do that, but I need to be here; people need to see me. The reason that I came to UMass was because of the diversity. The faculty in my department convinced me that they were committed to the mission. It is hard for me to understand how a university that celebrates diversity would take actions to make it harder for me to be here on campus to contribute my diversity.