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Access for the Disabled: Many campus buildings aren’t ADA approved

  • April 9, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

Daily Utah Chronical Issue date: 4/9/08

It takes Thomas McCrory 15 to 20 minutes to reach the bathroom from his class in the Business Classroom Building.

“There’s no elevator in the building,” said McCrory, a junior in finance. “To get to the bathrooms I have to take the catwalk across to the (Garff building), take the elevator down, then walk across to the BUC,” he said.

McCrory, who uses a wheelchair after being injured in a ski accident, is one of about 1,000 students on campus who get around with a disability.

12077247475973Josh Lee Junior Thomas McCrory goes through great
lengths to access all parts of campus each day. Although
the changes cannot all be made at once, the U is working
towards building a campus that is more accessible for
students with disabilities.

The U offers services to all students who register as disabled and meet with the Center for Disability Services.

“They need to bring in paperwork that shows their disability and how it affects them,” said Heather Jensen, deaf services coordinator for the center. The center can accommodate students with hearing loss, mobility issues and psychological diagnoses, she said.

However, some disabled students find it difficult to access some areas on campus.

There’s no problem in class, but rolling uphill and getting around campus is tiring, McCrory said.

“This year all my classes are in the business buildings, but it used to be a challenge going to different classes,” he said.

Some buildings around campus have Americans with Disabilities Act-approved bathrooms, and most are wheelchair accessible, but any building that was built before the act are not required to be accessible to students with disabilities.

“Our legal obligation is not to have every building accessible, but to have activities and classes accessible,” said Tom Loveridge, associate vice president of the Equal Opportunity Office. “But whenever a student comes forward about a problem, we try to fix it.”

All new buildings or ones that are being significantly remodelled must allocate no more than 20 percent of their budget to making improvements that comply with the act, said Eric Browning, a campus planner.

“You use that money for whatever best facilitates a path of travel, whether it be a lift, wider door, bathroom stalls or concrete to make the path more smooth,” he said.

The Equal Opportunity Office receives a $50,000 budget from the U for building upgrades. The money usually goes for door openers, ramps and other things that make the U more accessible, Loveridge said. When the office heard about a student who couldn’t get to his physics lab on the fourth floor of the Physics South building, it spent $750,000 to build an elevator, he said.

McCrory said he crashed once because of an uneven cut out in the sidewalk, and the next day he saw people grinding out the path to make it more smooth.

“The longboarders were really happy,” he said. “They asked if I could crash in a few other spots, as well.”

Students in wheelchairs can access all parts of the Union except meeting rooms on the east part of the third floor. Any classes scheduled in those rooms can be relocated by the center if a student can’t access them, but if they are used for another purpose, some students can’t reach them without alternative assistance.

Residence Hall buildings are ADA approved, but McCrory said that when he lived in Sage Point, he had problems getting around. The road from the Business Loop to the Heritage Center isn’t completely wheelchair accessible, he said. Instead, McCrory would have to travel up Legacy Bridge to get to Sage Point.

“It used to take me an hour of pushing to get from the business building up to Sage Point,” he said.

Buildings such as Chapel Glen and Gateway Heights, which are closer to Legacy Bridge, are generally reserved for freshmen. A student who goes through disability services can request to be moved to a closer building, said Barb Remsburg, associate director for Housing and Residential Education.

Sidney Davis, interim director for the Center for Disability Services, said students living on campus can call shuttle services and request a shuttle to pick them up outside of their class and take them to the Residence Halls.

The Marriott Library has also taken steps to help disabled students access its services. The book delivery service for faculty has been extended to students who have difficulty getting books from the library because of construction problems.

“Students can get books delivered to Disability Services instead of coming to the library,” said Daureen Nesdill, interim head of sciences and engineering at the library. “We noticed that after the west entrance was closed down, not as many students were coming in to use services.”

Students such as McCrory might be waiting a long time for the U’s buildings to be fully accessible.

It’s difficult to make the campus ADA accessible because some buildings were built in the early 1900s, Browning said.

“The university will probably never be completely handicap accessible because of the slope,” he said.