NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Wheelchair lift malfunctions during show

The show was uplifting. The lift was not.
On December 13, outside the Chester W. Hawrylciw Theater, a small group of hopeful audience members stood around the lift that provides wheelchair access to the theater itself.
After pushing buttons and reading signs to no avail, the group finally received help from professor Susan Sanders, who seemed to be the only person trained or qualified to operate this complicated piece of equipment.
Sanders is planning to retire in May.
Once the platform was firmly erected, the wheelchair was properly locked in place on the platform and the protective bars were latched both front and back. Finally, the lift began to ascend.
After traversing only half of its seven stair length, the lift became unresponsive, trapping the elderly woman who was riding it.
After several tense moments of trying unsuccessfully to re-start the lift, family members physically carried the woman and her wheelchair the rest of the way to the landing that leads into the theater.
No injuries were sustained during the incident, and no charges or complaints were filed.
Onlookers included retired professor Linda Desjardins who commented that this situation, and any others like it, are an embarrassment to the school.
Linda Hudson in the NECC maintenance department stated that the lift has been repaired but suggested that more information could be obtained by contacting the facilities manager, Rich Sommers.
Sommers was unaware of the incident.
This situation brings to mind an interview conducted last semester with theater director Jim Murphy who commented that the conditions in the theater often interfere with his ability to teach.
In addition to the lack of space, he said, “lack of fresh air and ventilation have had a negative impact on my classes.”
During the warmer months of the year, body heat and lighting coupled with the lack of ventilation requires him to run huge fans that drown out the voices of the actors and actresses and sometimes forces him to end class early because it is dangerously hot.
“Our theater compares unfavorably to many of the theater spaces at the local high schools that these students came from.” said Murphy, “It generates a lack of interest.”
As a result, this program is far from reaching its full potential.
According to Sommers, any plans to renovate the Spurk building are “fledgling, if at all.”