Butler student who uses wheelchair advocating for more accessibility, awareness on campus

Becca Mattson driving her powerchair
Posted at 7:25 AM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 11:06:07-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Becca Mattson, a junior at Butler University, uses a wheelchair to get around campus. Ramps are essential for her to get in and out of buildings.

"It is unsafe for me to try and use steps in my situation," Mattson said.

Over the weekend, Mattson says she was trying to leave Atherton Union but the ramp to the exit was blocked by a Butler University Operations Truck.

Exit blocked by Butler University Truck
Becca Mattson took this picture on Sunday of a Butler University Truck blocking the ramp out of Atherton Union

She snapped the picture above and waited about five minutes for whoever was driving it to come out so she could ask them to move it.

"They did move the truck. I came down the ramp and promptly after me coming down the ramp, they proceeded to back the truck back into the ramp," she said.

Mattson says she told the employees they can't park there because people who need ramps won't be able to use them. They told her they'd only be parked there for a few minutes.

"I said, 'It doesn't really matter how long you're going to be here. You can't park there and then the employee turned around and told me he did not care,'" Mattson said.

Mattson shared her story on Instagram, where it has added to a bigger conversation about the importance of accessibility.

"Specifically with the parking, it's a chronic issue not just here on campus, but throughout the community," Mattson said.

Ms. Wheelchair USA, Sara Gaver, says Mattson's story isn't surprising.

"It's definitely a challenge a lot of us face. That's one of the major ones," Gaver said. "A lot of the times, I've seen people think it's real easy access to the front door so they don't have to walk so far, but really, when you're blocking that ramp, you're taking our right away from accessing the building completely."

As part of Gaver's platform, she educates able-bodied individuals and those with disabilities about how to avoid and what to do those in situations. For those without a disability, Gaver wants you to start paying more attention.

"I think it's really important to watch for the signs. Between ramps, there's always a wheelchair ramp by the sign. It's very well posted. For parking spots, it's the same thing. The stripes are pretty bold. The side of my car even says leave space for my car."

Ms. Wheelchair USA next to her car with a sticker on it to let people know she needs extra space to get out
Gaver next to the sticker on her van alerting drivers she's going to need extra space to get out

For people with disabilities, she hopes to help instill confidence in them to speak up when someone is taking up space or blocking a ramp they need to use. What Mattson did is an example of the confidence Gaver wants the differently-abled to have.

"Disabled people matter. We're contributing members of society. It's the only minority you can become a part of at any point during your life," said Mattson. "I always encourage people to think about it from the perspective of what would happen if you needed to use that ramp. Suddenly, it would matter."

Butler University released the following statement on this matter.

We pride ourselves on being an inclusive campus but, in this instance, our actions fell short of our goals and will not be tolerated. Our operations manager has spoken directly with the student and offered our apologies for this inexcusable incident. We thank the student for bringing this matter to our attention and for allowing us to use this as a teachable moment that will improve our university as we move forward together.

On social media, students are sharing other pictures of operation trucks parked in striped and/or handicapped spots. They're demanding the school makes their employees stop parking in those spaces.