Construction on sidewalks had students and faculty concerned about handicap accessibility on campus.
At the beginning of the semester, construction took place on multiple sidewalks on campus. Scott Gillam, project manager in the facilities department, is in charge of overseeing these projects.
Gillam had hoped to start and finish the renovations during the summer months, but the project was delayed due to scheduling conflicts with outside contractors.
“With so much construction and renovation activity ongoing on campus and the scheduling of outside contractors, who have many other projects going on as well, it can be a challenge to have projects executed at the just right time for everyone,” said Gillam.
With the renovations of the sidewalks, many members of the community have started talking about the issues of handicapp accessibility on campus.
Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, professor of English, is concerned with the lack of accessibility in some of the buildings on campus.
“I’ve always been a proponent of exposing students to the lack of accessibility on a campus which boosts health science programs and majors and I even have projects in my disability and literature class where students must go to all buildings on campus and assess the accessibility or lack thereof,” said Steinberger.
Steinberger and others have commented that the elevator next to the Art Gallery in Insalaco Hall is too small for someone with a wheelchair.
However, according to Gillam and Bob Zavada, director of Campus Safety and Security, all buildings on campus meet ADA standards.
Each building were required to meet these standards during the time the building was built according to Gillam. Those standards change every few years.
“While it might seem that some spaces are not as accessible as others, those former spaces were compliant at the time they were constructed and are still considered compliant until major improvements are undertaken,” said Gillam.
Older buildings on campus will be upgraded in order to remain up to date with ADA standards. Some of those projects started over this summer. including new carpeting and furniture in the McGowan Room of the library, a new park in Dallas by the roundabout, new lighting, furniture, and carpeting in the Banks lobby and many more.
One major upgrade will come with the completion of the Science Center as Gillam explained there will be changes to the landscape to make it easier for students and/or faculty who need assistance.
“The route that someone travels from the Science Center to, say, the library, will be shorter, have a dedicated walkway separated from the road, and have accessible slopes along that route as a result of the changes made to the landscape around the new building,” said Gillam. “The ramp entrance to the existing building will also be reshaped to improve the slope for accessibility.”
According to Zavada, Campus Safety always makes sure automatic accessible doors on campus are working properly. When they do find a handicapped accessible door that does not work, they get someone in as soon as they can to fix it.
Zavada said one of the biggest problems Campus Safety has is knowing exactly where a disabled person would be if there ever was a situation requiring evacuation.
“We’ve been working very closely with Resident Life and some other departments, Student Life in general, to know where people are,” said Zavada.
Unlike Steinberger, Zavada does not believe handicap accessibility is an issue on campus, but it can be confusing.
“We don’t eliminate any handicap accessibility areas,” said Zavada. “We have ramps and ways to enter buildings that do not have steps. Sometimes, they’re a little confusing to find where it is, but they do exist.”
Zavada believes signs posted around campus could be an improvement to clear up this confusion.
“Sometimes, you walk down this path and it has the handicap symbol, the standard one we always see, and you don’t know exactly where to go after that,” said Zavada. “I think maybe people would find it easier to go to these areas if we did post them.”
Steinberger also thinks more communication on campus could help accessibility.
“Maybe there could be more campus-wide announcements as to this is the construction going on on campus so you can be aware,” she said. “Then perhaps you wouldn’t use certain doors if you know that a sidewalk is missing or steps are missing. You would avoid that building or just think of an alternate way to get there if possible that could save you time.”
Another issue Steinberger has seen is not enough parking due to the construction of the new science building.
“Last year, I would have said, that’s going to be fine. Because look at how many we got with the reconfiguration of the parking space. However, it’s been pretty hellacious,” she said.
Due to the lack of parking, Steinberger usually has to park at Anderson and carry heavy English books to the third floor of Mercy Hall.
“I’m grateful that it’s not snowy or icy, yet, but what will happen when the weather turns?” she said.
Steinberger has also noticed a lack of handicap parking spaces; however, Zavada and Campus Safety are currently in the process of making sure there are enough handicapped parking spaces.
Zavada claims there are more than enough parking for students and faculty on campus.
“We realize there is some adjustment to make,” he said. “People are not used to parking in different areas where they were customary. They would go to one spot. maybe they don’t find a spot there now, so we try to direct people to open areas.”
Zavada and the Campus Safety staff encourage students and faculty to call them if they cannot find a parking spot and they will help lead them to openings.
Anyone who needs to use the handicap accessibility pathways and has trouble or has ideas as to how improvements can be made is asked to contact Scott Gillam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find more information about the accessibility on campus, go to Misericordia.edu and click on the “Accessibility at Misericordia” tab under the About page.