Yes, this really happened.

Megan Rogers of Inside Higher Ed reports.

No Access

At a gathering for scholars interested in the intersection of health, humanities and disabilities this weekend, a professor who uses a wheelchair was asked to ring a bell to gain access to the meeting.

William Peace, a visiting professor at Syracuse University, wrote in a blog post he hadn’t seen a sign directing people to “ring bell for access”— which he likened to “white only” signs — since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 23 years ago.

“Before the ADA was passed into law, I rang many such bells for access to buildings. Half the time no one answered the bell. The other times after an extended wait someone would arrive to open the door,” Peace wrote. “In short, I quickly learned ‘Ring bell for access’ really meant there is no desire or commitment to wheelchair access.”

The blog post has attracted considerable attention among disability scholars, who report that they do regularly confront issues with accessibility, but that they expect better — or should be able to expect better — at meetings that involve disability studies.

Peace’s post elicited apologies from the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where the event was held, as well as from the organizers of the humanities, health and disabilities studies working group. The group is co-sponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor and the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium.

When Peace and Stephen Kuusisto, a professor of disability studies at Syracuse University and honors program director, arrived at the working group’s meeting, they first saw an “enter here” sign directly in front of a row of steps. The pair navigated around the building to find a wheelchair accessible ramp, Kuusisto said, but when they entered the building they discovered more steps leading to the meeting room.  They entered the meeting through a back entrance that instructed them to ring a bell for access.