Transformation concerns Students with disabilities
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05
When the university announced that the campus would be going through a transformation process in celebration of its centennial, some students with disabilities became concerned with the proposed changes and were unsure about how it would affect their everyday commute around campus.
“It’s going to be hard for us students with disabilities especially with those who are wheelchair bound because not only do we have to find a proper place to unload our wheelchairs but they are also endangering us more because we’ll be having to cross major streets like Mesa just to get to campus,” said Kayla Villegas, sophomore social work major.
On Oct. 9, as part of Ability Awareness Week organized by the Center of Accommodation and Student Support, students and faculty were updated on the campus transformation by Gregory McNicol, assistant vice president of the university’s Facility Services, who addressed the issues bothering disabled students.
“We are very cognizant of the needs of the disabled,” McNicol said. “This transformation is going to change the way this whole space works and it will create accessible routes to accommodate all students.”
The proposed plans for the transformation are compliant with The Americans with Disabilities Act and with Texas Accessibility Standards laws. Also, an ADA consultant is on board to review the designs and to ensure all plans are executed effectively.
The ADA was passed in 1990 and under it there are specific criteria detailing how universities have to provide accommodations for not only disabled students but for faculty, staff and members of the general public.
“The law is very well defined to what we have to do,” McNicol said. “That is why we hired this special consultant to review these key accessibility issues.”
According to McNicol, the transformation process began with the construction along Hawthorne Street, which is expected to open by the end of the month and be fully completed by December.
Before the transformation it was a two-lane road with narrow sidewalks, but with the recent changes the sidewalks have been extended and the road narrowed down to one lane that will lead to ADA handicap accessible parking slots.
Parking was the major concern among students with disabilities in regards to the transformation. Currently, students with disabilities can park on campus relatively close to the building they need to access, but in January the campus will be closed to automotive traffic and students with disabilities will have to park either on Hawthorne Street or in the parking garages located on the perimeter of campus.
Joann Cross, senior media advertising major, moves across campus in her automatic wheelchair and, although she does not drive, she feels that the inability to park on campus will be an inconvenience to students with disabilities.
“Students who are in manual wheel chairs, how are they supposed to get from the parking garages all the way to campus? It is about a quarter mile,” Cross said.
According to McNicol, the university is in compliance with the law because the closest parking spaces to campus and in the parking garages will be handicap accessible spaces.
“Parking in front of a building does not define it as ADA compliant,” McNicol said. “The parking will be moved, but will be in accessible routes that will be well lit and accessible to all.”
The university will be raising four new parking complexes to substitute the parking spaces eliminated within campus.
The parking lot IC-10 located next to the Union Building West, which is technically inaccessible because of its slope, will be removed and landscaped.
“We are going to create a large oval space that will have a pitch to it, to drain water, but it will actually be accessible,” McNicol said. “The trail that goes all around the oval will be an accessible route for all students.”
Currently, the slope of the hill going up to the Psychology Building is not an accessible route for all students.
The transformations also consist of other projects around campus such as an overlook connecting the library to the new Health Sciences and Nursing Building and revitalization of the arroyo that intersects the campus. This transformation is the first series of 12 projects in the Master Plan to transform the university.
“The campus is only getting better as we move forward,” McNicol said. “It’s going to become more accessible to all students.”
Guerrero Garcia may be reached at email@example.com.