You may have noticed the addition of some four legged friends to our campus community.

Isabella Scott, a freshman Biology major, is legally blind. She was born with a juvenile form of macular degeneration. “It’s genetic, and started showing when I was around eight years old. It affects my central vision, as well as some of my peripheral vision.” According to her doctors, it can be explained as if someone were to put a thin layer of Vaseline over your eyes, preventing you from seeing clearly.

For the last year, her guide dog O’Hara has been by her side, giving her the independence she’s always wanted.

“I put all of my trust into her four paws.”

Scott takes pride in having always taken care of O’Hara entirely on her own. But since moving onto campus, she has discovered a challenge to keeping and taking care of a dog in a college dorm room: dogs have accidents.

While service dogs are extremely well-trained, house training included, accidents do happen. Even humans get sick and have accidents. And when that does happen, Scott is left to try to clean it up. And each time she can’t, she faces up to a $50 cleaning fee.

“Although I have some vision, I will still explain it this way: Imagine putting a blindfold on and then being asked to clean throw up off of a rug.”

The color and material of her carpeted floors make it even more difficult for her to see what she is doing, so she has started a petition to replace the carpet in all dorm rooms across campus.

Jen Maitino, the director of Residence Life & Housing on campus, said while she is in favor of the move away from carpet flooring, this could be a costly move for the college. “Certainly it would not be cost-effective to go in and rip everything out all at once, especially in areas where it was recently replaced, however it would be worth exploring how we approach alternative flooring as spaces come up for carpet replacement.”

The basement levels of a number of residence halls on campus – Mayflower, State House, Main House, and others – are already not carpeted, but some student leaders on campus feel it would be unfair to relegate disabled students to those undesirable rooms.

Student body president Rachel O’Donnell (’19) said, “Students with disabilities should always be prioritized in regards to housing and accessibility within our campus.”

While Scott’s online petition is over halfway to her goal of 200 signatures, there doesn’t seem to be much progress being made on-campus in starting discussions about how to make the changes she is requesting.

When asked about her knowledge of the campaign, O’Donnell revealed, “Unfortunately, until you are asking right now, there hasn’t been any mention of the petition or campaign to remove carpet from floors in [residence] halls during our student forum. Every Wednesday from 2-4pm we meet in the Large Meeting Room and discuss various student concerns and topics, and this should most certainly be one of them!”

Want to make your voice heard? Click this link to see the petition.

Take a look into the life of a service dog by following O’Hara @geb_ohara on Instagram.

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