Clearing a path: Disability and accessibility on a snow-covered campus

When the snow falls and the ice starts to form on the ground, that is when Concordia College is its most dangerous. Ice goes everywhere it doesn’t belong; on roadways heading to Fargo, on sidewalks students use for classes, and on-ramps that can be potentially dangerous for wheelchair users.  

Abigail Vogeler is a Biology and Theatre Art double major. She’s heavily involved in campus organizations and has been a fundamental component in the founding of the club, Sonder.  

Sonder is a club for disability and mental health advocacy. The club was brand new last year was started last year by Vogeler and Makenna Mathison.   

Vogeler believes that there is a big need for accessibility everywhere.  

“Oftentimes, accessibility and accommodations are an afterthought,” Vogeler said.  

In more recent years, there has been of a push to start having conversions about disabilities. What is helpful to someone with disabilities might be helpful to a handful of others. “Accessibility benefits everyone,” Vogeler said.  

“People are starting to talk about like, ‘Oh we need to include accessibility and disability in when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion,’” she said.  

The conversation surrounding improving accessibility also includes a different discussion about the freedom of movement. Although, it might be an issue in the larger Fargo-Moorhead area.  

  Indira Neil Hoch is a professor in the Communications Department. She teaches classes like New Media, Inquiry Oral Communication classes, and Intro to Communication. She has lived in the area for around four years.  

“I’m largely a pedestrian,” she said. Typically, Hoch doesn’t choose to drive in the winter. “It’s not exclusive to Concordia, but there is a big snow removal problem here.”  

When she lived in Chicago, she would be fined if she did not remove the snow from her driveway. On campus alone, Hoch has fallen three separate times on the icy sidewalks.  

“But then, you think about the freedom of movement,” Indira said, “and the idea that you have to specially request for certain paths to be wheelchair accessible. That is certainly an issue.” 

Freedom of Movement refers to being able to go anywhere with being redirected. Its the idea that everything should be accessible to everywhere. When wheelchair bound, that means having ramps and elevators to fully access every building.  

Before the snow falls every year, the department of disabilities send out a request that students who are affected by snow, mark down their routes to give direction to the snow removal team. 

Concordia College on a wintery day. | Anna Kronbeck


Academically, the disability office serves as a place for counseling, advising, and advocacy. Students are asked to address any issues that come up regarding their ability to move around campus and complete their assignments.  

Matthew Rutten has been the Director of the Counseling Center and the Director of Disability Services for six years.  

“We help [Students with disabilities] advocate for themselves,” said Rutten.  

In a couple of months, they are planning to introduce a new department that includes the Office of Disability Services, Counseling Center, and Health Services. It will be called the Center for Holistic Health.   

Another concern that students have when it comes to addressing inequities on campus is the placement of elevators.  

Elevators are in every academic building, however, there is only one elevator in any of the campus housing options. Although this is one of their big concerns, Rutter would like to prioritize making academic success more accessible. Rutten notes that when on-campus dormitories are shut-down for renovations, adding elevators is on top of their lists.  

Concordia College itself strives to be accessible in other ways. Although the Disability Office would like to improve other things around campus for those with disabilities, their main concern is accessibility when it comes to academics. 

More issues need to be addressed. Vogeler suggests that students keep talking and having discussion about what they would like to see to make Campus more accessible.  

Concordia College can set the standard for accessibility in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

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