December 9, 2020
Even though Emerson has offered a taxi voucher program for students who require transportation to the college’s COVID-19 testing center at Tufts Medical Center since September, the college has sent just one email to students promoting the initiative.
Student Accessibility Services, the office in charge of the program, forged a partnership with the taxi company Wonderful Boston in the beginning of the fall semester, SAS Director Diane Paxton said. Paxton said she already sent out some vouchers, but students can always come to SAS and pick up more.
Emerson students take weekly tests at a Tufts Medical Center facility located on the corner of Harrison Ave. and Kneeland St. Most students who live on-campus get to the testing center by walking.
“It’s always important that we make the campus… accessible,” Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe said in an interview on Nov. 16. “That takes different shapes and forms, and [the voucher program] is one of them.”
SAS will provide the vouchers for as long as the college requires students to receive testing—in the spring, students will be required to test every four days as opposed to the weekly requirement in place for the fall.
Hoppe sent an email to students on Oct. 16, writing that vouchers were available to students who needed them. “Note that taxi vouchers are available for students with medical conditions who would benefit from having transportation from campus to the testing center for their weekly COVID tests,” he wrote.
Aside from the email from Hoppe, the college has not publicly promoted or communicated the voucher program despite repeated communication from disabled student leaders over the summer that such a program was necessary.
“I also look forward to hearing more about the taxi support service when the information is available,” an Aug. 17 email to Hoppe obtained by The Beacon read.
That communication never materialized.
In order to take a ride, students need to call Wonderful Boston and request a taxi, either at the time of the call or in advance. Students will then hand a voucher to the driver and keep a copy for themselves. The bill for the ride is then sent to SAS.
The taxi will take the student from campus to the testing center, where the driver will wait for the student outside the building if they ask. Once students finish testing, the taxi will bring them back to campus.
“We want students with disabilities to spend the same amount of time and the same amount of ease,” said Paxton. “They shouldn’t use tremendous physical exertion to go to the testing center when other students don’t have to do that.”
Students with any kind of mobility conditions are eligible for the vouchers, but Paxton said students who have trouble walking to the test center due to bad weather conditions can also request one.
“This is for anybody who has a mobility challenge, but even some students who feel pretty comfortable going to the testing center on their own, because of bad weather or once it gets dark earlier or any kind of reasons like slippery pavement,” Paxton said. “Students might not feel comfortable going with walking, instead they can take a taxi.”
Paxton said she saw some students on crutches during move-in and offered vouchers to them, but the students told her they could manage the trip on their own. Paxton believes the only students who may be using the vouchers right now are students regularly with SAS for other accessibility accommodations.
The number of students who have used the vouchers thus far this semester is low, Paxton said, but she expects more students to use them next semester with shorter days and colder weather.
“Because it’s darker for more of the spring and the weather is bad, we may have more students who use them actually,” Paxton said.
Access Student Disability Union President Harper McKenzie did not return a request for comment.