The University of Toledo is starting the new school year by improving the handicap accessibility of 10 buildings on Main Campus and two Health Science Campus buildings.
The construction that began in early August is scheduled to be completed in October and will include improvements such as electric doors, easy-access water fountains and handicap accessible restrooms, said Enjie Hall, UT director of accessibility and student disability services.
Slated for these improvements are University Hall, Bowman-Oddy Laboratories, Memorial Field House, North Engineering, Nitschke Hall, Wolfe Hall, the Center for Performing Arts, Rocket Hall, the Law Center, McMaster Hall, the Health Education Building and the Collier Building.
David Cutri, executive director of internal audit and chief compliance officer, said that the buildings were chosen based on student and faculty use, how “ADA-accessible” a building was, what facilities posed the greatest risk and the recommendations by an Americans with Disabilities Act consultant.
“People with disabilities will be able to navigate through doors, use water fountains and use restrooms more independently,” Hall said. “Currently, due to inaccessibility, people may wait for other to help open a door or ask for assistance to fill a water bottle.”
Jim Ferris, chair of the disabilities program, said he and his graduate student have trouble using mobility scooters and wheelchairs around their office on the fourth floor of University Hall due to tight door frames.
“A problem we run into on this campus, and this is not unique to UT’s campuses, is that the architects and the administrators were not thinking about accessibility when building this campus,” Ferris said. “So, ever since, we have been adding these improvements onto existing buildings.”
An article by UT News stated that the university was granted $500,000 in state funding from the state’s capital appropriation for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
However, according to the bid tabulation on UT’s website for the improvements, the combined cost for the contractor and equipment in Rocket Hall, the Health Education Building, North Engineering and McMaster Hall is $527,000.
“There’s tons of things that still need to be improved,” Ferris said. “We do live in a society that prioritizes accessibility, but we still have many vestiges from that time… when people were still operating on the mentality that disabled people should stay in the back rooms and be quiet.”
Ferris also said that the university should look at how each campus can make accessibility improvements for the mentally handicapped.
“We have a lot of work to do, no question,” Ferris said. “It would be great if we could get it all done now, but it takes time and we will always have more to do.”