The budget cuts that hit UC Irvine this past year have affected every student on campus, but particularly those who suffer from a disability or injury and are in need of a transportation service to get around campus. Students must now pay to get transported in the service carts.
Until last year, the service was offered to students free of charge by the Disability Services Center, but due to a lack of funding, Parking and Transportation Services continued to offer the program to students for free.
Stacey L. Murren, director of PTS, said that PTS student employees were the ones responsible for saving the cart service.
‘Last year, DSC requested assistance with on-campus transports,’ Murren said. ‘Students working for [PTS] brainstormed [to come up with] a way to assist DSC with their program by operating a cart service.’
Recently, however, PTS invested large sums of money toward projects including the construction of the Engineering Parking Structure. Consequently, PTS ended up not having enough funds to offer the cart service.
Because this particular service was needed for students who suffer from physical disabilities, PTS decided to continue providing the cart service, but to charge students directly for each ride. The cost of one ride is $6.
Some students, such as Samantha Harmon, a first-year psychology major who recently dislocated her hip and now uses one crutch, believe it is ridiculous to pay for the service.
Harmon was upset that the DSC stopped offering this particular service because she said that when she attended a Student-Parent Orientation Program this past summer, she was informed that the university would provide transportation.
‘It didn’t work out that way,’ Harmon said. ‘Other people are restricted to crutches and it has to be really hard to pay that because you don’t have a choice. It’s ridiculous for students to pay because they are disabled.’
The DSC still provides services mandated by law and has the funds to do so. But Karen Myers, director of DSC, said that providing a cart service is ‘not [a] legally mandated accommodation but rather a value-added service.’
According to Myers, the legally mandated accommodations ‘include, but are not limited to, text conversion, testing accommodations, note-taking services, adaptive equipment, sign language interpreters and real-time captioning.’
However, Myers said that DSC has seen a decline in students coming into the office for temporary disabilities because they no longer offer the cart service.
‘In the past, there were approximately 200 students per year with temporary disabilities who received accommodations and services from the DSC,’ Myers said. ‘Due to the elimination of the disability transport service, the number of students with temporary disabilities served by the DSC has declined.’
Murren explained that PTS is unable to provide cart service for free because their funds are restricted.
‘It is important to understand that [PTS] does not receive state funding for any of its services, and revenues from permit sales must be used directly for parking-related functions,’ Murren said.
Because of the high demand for this service, Murren said that PTS, UCI students and the DSC are developing ideas for a resolution.
In the meantime, students who do not wish to pay for the cart service can utilize the ASUCI shuttles, which have wheelchair lifts, or request a short-term disability parking permit.