Delicately placed amid mountains, going to class at UT is hardly a walk in the park. This complaint holds particular importance for students with disabilities.
Established in 2012, Campus Disability Advocates seeks to voice this concern and make campus more user-friendly.
Founded by Lindsay Lee, a senior in math and science, CDA grew out of a longing to gather and empower students with disabilities, as well as their advocates.
"I'm a wheelchair user myself and I came to UT and saw that there were a lot of ways that UT could improve the ways it treated people with disabilities," Lee said. "There was a lot of room for improvement. It lacked a forum where students with disabilities could meet. Other minority groups have that, but we don't."
On Tuesday at CDA's weekly meeting, the group hosted Christina Moore, project manager for the grant on Inclusive Transportation Planning with the Community Action Committee. Attendees discussed what they found to be most challenging with Knoxville transit.
Knoxville is currently one of the only big cities without a taxi service specifically for disabled persons. Without this resource, students must rely on vans or buses that require reservations to be made at least three days prior to their ride, making scheduling around jobs and classes difficult.
"People's lives don't run like that," Allison Gose, a junior majoring in history and political science, said. "But for some reason, these buses do."
Beyond inconvenience, these buses pose even more challenges. One member stated that once she had been so poorly strapped into the bus that her wheelchair tire became unhooked from the floor and she went skidding across the bus aisle.
Another student mentioned she has not ridden the buses since a bad experience with the wheelchair lift.
"The lifts that you're supposed to drive out onto, they were so old and not well maintained," Gose said. "Most of them slanted downwards and it's not a comfortable feeling driving out on midair onto something slanting downwards."
As Moore noted, the Community Action Committee shares many of CDA's goals.
"One bad experience and you're never going to use public transportation again," Moore said. "But, if that's your only option of getting around that is a huge problem."
Above all, the committee promotes a dialogue about these issues. Through discussion and collecting data though their survey, CAC hopes to apply for a grant, which would fund a yearlong project to improve Knox County transit for disabled students.
Not to discount existing options for disabled persons, CAC emphasizes the resources already at student's disposal.
"I feel like someone should have told me a long time ago that there are all these options," Lee said.
With the continued support of faculty, CAC has suggested several improvements, such as better sidewalks or more strategically placed ramps.
"The biggest problem is there being a lack of knowledge or a lack of communication about there being an issue in the first place," Lee said. "But after you make that clear, everyone seems to want to fix things and every time I come back to campus they have always fixed some problems. It's definitely getting better. They have been nothing but supportive."
Stressing the importance of friendship, Lee said she believes the network developing within the committee provides more than advocacy.
"One of the things we really struggle with is that people with disabilities have a hard time seeing disability as something they should work with other people with, they see it as something shameful so that prevents people from working with other people," Lee said. "We have been trying to grow for a really long time, but it's a slow process because people with disabilities grow up not knowing other people with disabilities and hasn't had these relationships. So, it's been really great."