Sometimes when junior Daisy Luck is walking to or from COVID-19 mitigation testing, she has to stop to catch her breath.
In the cold months, she said there’s nowhere she can sit inside to keep warm. Cold weather can trigger her severe asthma, but she doesn’t feel comfortable in most buildings or buses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means she often has to sit down outside, unable to keep moving in the midst of full-blown asthma attacks.
IU introduced weekly mitigation testing during fall 2020 to identify positive COVID-19 cases among students. The requirement was increased to twice weekly this semester for all on-campus students. While the testing is an attempt at keeping students healthy, Luck said she thinks it’s still inaccessible for many.
Members of IU’s disabled community told the Indiana Daily Student they feel overlooked in certain parts of IU’s COVID-19 plan. Students said accessing the testing sites is difficult and their medical conditions make some rules hard to follow. People with disabilities are at greater risk of COVID-19, and activists have urged non-disabled people and healthcare providers to not make the disabled population an afterthought.
The testing rules state eating, drinking, smoking, vaping or chewing gum 30 minutes before the test is not allowed. Luck said her condition makes the rule hard to adhere to because not having water worsens her asthma, especially during physical activity like walking.
She said her asthma attacks often disrupt her entire day. She said she experiences “brain fog” that makes it difficult to complete schoolwork.
IU Auditorium Director Douglas Booher said the no-water rule is to avoid chemicals in the mouth interfering with test results. If a student can’t avoid eating or drinking for half an hour before testing, he said they should contact the Medical Response Team, which can help them get a nasal swab test or an exemption from testing.
Testing locations have also proved to be a challenge for students with disabilities, Luck said. Testing this semester is available at the IU Auditorium, Ray E. Cramer Marching Hundred Hall and drive-thru testing for high-risk individuals is being done on the lower level of the East Parking Garage on Jordan Avenue, Booher said.
Luck, who lives in Tulip Tree Apartments, said the walk to testing sites is nearly half an hour from her apartment. She said she wishes there were more locations spread out around campus, because not having a driver’s license or car and being wary of the bus because of COVID-19 means she must walk to her testing appointments.
If take-home tests were offered, she said she would take advantage of them. But Booher said take-home tests are not feasible right now because it would be a complicated process to collect the tests and get samples to labs.
Sophomore Kal Demaree, who has a degenerative disk disease in her spine that causes random pain and numbness in her legs, alleged there is a lack of signage indicating accessibility areas.
She said there’s supposed to be accessible parking in the back of Marching Hundred Hall. However, she said she didn’t see any signs and didn’t know how to access the parking lot. there are no signs and she has no idea how to access it, she said. She also said she had to ask parking attendants where to go at the auditorium because her mitigation testing email had no information about where to park and she didn’t see signage there either.
Shirley Stumpner, director of disability services for students, denied the allegation that there was no signage and said there are large signs directing people to accessible parking around campus, is usually located close to buildings.
Both the auditorium and Cramer Marching Hundred Hall have ramps, Booher said, and the drive-thru testing option in the East Garage was created with accessibility in mind. He said students are welcome to ask for other accommodations if needed.
While she thinks drive-thru testing is a good idea, Luck said it doesn’t help people such as her who don’t have cars.
Booher said that while testing may be difficult, it’s necessary to keep campus safe.
“It’s a really important investment in helping themselves and our entire community stay safe,” Booher said.
But Luck said she feels disabled students have not been included in conversations surrounding mitigation testing.
“I feel like disabled students have been ignored a lot by IU when it comes to mitigation testing,” Luck said.