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PIERCE COLLEGE : Better Wheelchair Access Sought

On the days she can’t park her specially modified van near a wheelchair-accessible curb cuts on the Pierce College campus, Coral Markle’s wheelchair becomes part of the street traffic--a small, vulnerable vehicle in the midst of buses, trucks and cars.

The 39-year-old Markle, one of about 20 students who depend on wheelchairs to get around the Woodland Hills campus, faces the same dilemma when she arrives for classes five days a week.

“The biggest problem is that it’s life-threatening to ride in the street,” Markle said. “Cars have honked at me and I’ve almost been hit by a bus.”

On Nov. 8, Markle, who has attended Pierce since September, 1990, filed a student discrimination complaint because of the situation. Now, largely because of the complaint, the college administration is taking steps to remedy the situation--at least partially.

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Markle and Donald Love, vice president of administration, toured the campus Monday to locate potential sites for additional curb cuts. President Lowell Erickson said nine sites were identified and that the administration is “trying to get three or four curb cuts done as quickly as possible.”

Erickson said that initially no funds for the project were available until Love located $10,000 in Los Angeles Community College District funds previously earmarked for barrier removal projects such as curb cuts.

A funding proposal for a curb-cut project, proposed by Norm Crozer, the college’s director of special services, was rejected by the Associated Students Organization on Dec. 6. Crozer also failed to get the needed money from the college foundation and a district fund used for high-priority projects.

On Wednesday, Love sent a formal request for the money to the district’s budget office, but a timetable for the project has not yet been established.

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“Technically, the law requires” curb cuts, Crozer said. “It doesn’t go as far as to name curb cuts specifically, but I’m sure it’s implied.”

“Coral pointed out a real need and we’re concerned,” Erickson said. “We’re pushing to get it done as soon as possible.”

Markle also has played a role in getting the college to meet federal laws regarding building and classroom access in the past. In May, 1990, she convinced campus officials to install a ramp at the college newspaper, the Roundup, where she was a journalism student.

“It seems like I’m the only one who complains and pushes and shoves,” Markle said. “But the truth is that it’s difficult for anyone who uses a wheelchair to get personal care taken care of in the morning, get to school, take classes on a wheelchair-unfriendly campus and then get home again. It’s a full-time job.”

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Markle has used a wheelchair since suffering the first of three strokes on Oct. 8, 1987. She also has multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that affects muscular coordination.


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