Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Patricio Figueroa

Audio transcript: On Brooklyn College in the early seventies and confronting accessibility issues as a member of SOFEDUP [Student Organization for Every Disability United for Progress]
Date: June 25, 2001
Interviewer: Sharon Bonney

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.


Figueroa:
1972, I get into Brooklyn College—'72 to '74, I was there. I remember becoming the leader of SOFEDUP because Arthur [Lefkin], the fellow who was the president, became ill and had to drop out that year. I met my wife Denise through SOFEDUP. Already I knew what Disabled in Action could do—that is, they had gotten me my apartment. I wanted to encourage all the new people, the young people to continue, to become involved. That was my point, to develop new leadership.

It's ridiculous how—you go back. We always tell stories about the experiences we had in this school. I remember sitting with an architect, one of the engineering architects, about making a building accessible. We said, "We want a ramp to compensate for those four steps," because he wanted to do something around the back of the building, which was totally ridiculous because in case you went from the quad to that building you would have to go all around the building that's almost a block wide. I said, "No, you're going to put a ramp." I think his most disturbing idea was another ramp that's going to take away from the quad that is beautiful. You had the fountains and you had the green area and all the paths crisscrossing. Brooklyn College is a pretty campus. He was like, "Another wooden ramp that's going to interfere with the aesthetics." And this was going to be a long wooden ramp. So he says, "Look, I have an idea. Why don't we compromise? Instead of making this forty-four foot long ramp we could make a twenty-eight foot ramp. We will ramp the first two steps." I was sitting there and looked at him and said "And what the heck am I supposed to do with the next two steps?" He just couldn't understand it. The aesthetics came first. The practicality was something that they couldn't comprehend.

So those were the people that we were up against. People like Fred Francis and the gentleman I mentioned before, Professor Harvey Honig, who also taught in City University [City University of New York]—these guys were determined to make the City University accessible even before Section 504 became the law, and they did.

End of transcript


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