Texas student wins battle over accessible dorm room
Posted Sep 12 2008 11:29am
A recent article on the Campus Progress Web site Titled Separate but Unequal Dorms tells about the victory of a Texas State University student who uses a wheelchair after she had to pay higher costs than other first-year students just so she could live in an accessible dorm room.
Bailey Gosda is a sophomore at TSU who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. She has been in a nearly two-year fight with the university, in which she has contended that the university overcharged her several thousands of dollars so that she could live in a dorm room with wheelchair access. This would be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA).
In 2005, Ms. Gosda visited the campus and Residence Life told her they did not know where to house her. She asked to live in Smith Building, the traditional and most affordable dorm, but there were no rooms in the building that were wheelchair accessible. The university moved her to a single room in a more expensive dorm, explaining that she and her equipment would foreclude the possibility of having a roommate. The result was that she paid more than twice what most first-year students did.
With the assistance of an attorney from Advocacy Inc., a non-profit disability rights organization based in Austin, Ms. Gosda began to take on the university.
In the article, her attorney stated that, “under the ADA, Gosda should only have to pay for what she requested—a dormitory room in a traditional building with a roommate—even if there was not a wheelchair accessible room available that fit that description.” Her attorney asked the school to repay Ms. Gosda the difference.”
This seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? It was not that simple, though, as Texas State officials drug out their opposition. Read the article linked above to understand the battles this young lady had to undertake to be proven right.
Last month, Ms. Gosda was vindicated in her battle when the euniversity offered to refund the $6,000 it had overcharged her.
Hopefully, the university administration has learned a legal lesson on providing access. That was a cheap way out for them. Had she taken this matter to court and been successful, the university could have faced more severe financial penalties.
We often sit back and naively believe we are living in enlightened times when cases such as this are no longer taking place. It is a reflection of attitude towards the law and that is as subjective as any individual. The case of Ms. Gosda could have happened at any college or university. All it takes is the right situation, such as the lack of accessible rooms in the traditional dorm, and the subsequent boneheaded ignorance taken by somebody withing the university to not see the right thing to do, in this case it was to give her the accessible room at the rate of the traditional dorm room.
It is the responsibility of all DSS professionals to educate and enlighten. I would hope that the university consulted their ADA coordinator for an opinion before taking such a foolish and indefensible stance. It doesn't sound like they did, though.