Woman says UNC Charlotte event was not accessible for her wheelchair

CHARLOTTE — A woman told Channel 9 she tried to attend an event on the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s campus, but she couldn’t get there in her wheelchair.

“There were big slopes, low slopes, ditches,” Melanie Dunston said. “Even a person that’s a senior citizen or a person that has a mobility issue, it was not good.”

Dunston said she’s independent and should have access to that area just like everyone else. She said she felt singled out, embarrassed and sidelined because of the experience.

“It’s not accessible. They know it’s an issue and (then) I came about,” Dunston said.

Dunston was visiting UNC Charlotte’s Botanical Gardens for its public spring plant sale. She said the moment she parked, she knew immediately that access would be an issue.

“I started looking at the little slopes and mountains and gravel, where they were actually setting up, or had been setting up for the sale. And I was like, ‘I can’t,’” she said.

Dunston has mobility issues. She’s been using a wheelchair for more than 10 years. Still, she operates independently.

“They tried to help but you can’t help someone that’s independent. You have to give them accessibility,” she said. “It’s not like a mother with a stroller. She might can pick up that baby out of the stroller. This is my means of transportation, and when I can’t transport to and from, I’m stuck.”

Dunston said she shared her concerns with campus officials on the spot and again via email. She shared the university’s response, where officials apologized that the site was not accessible. One part even mentions a grant they’ve been after for two years in an effort to change that.

On the university website, UNC Charlotte names accessibility in its mission, then says it is one of the top priorities for the institution.

“Just like anybody else, I want to peruse around and get an idea of what I want. Feel, touch, look,” Dunston said. She went on to say that she didn’t think the school meant to keep her from accessing the event.

“I don’t think it was intentional. I just don’t think they had their ADA requirements up to date. It’s the law to have a public access place accessible for everybody,” she said.

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