ADA access an absolute priority

Handicap Access Courtney Tanner
(Brent Uberty)

(Brent Uberty)

For students in wheelchairs, maneuvering around the huge, hilly campus can be a struggle — Carli Carter knows firsthand.

Carter, a senior in broadcast journalism, has spinal muscular atrophy, which causes her to use a wheelchair. She said getting around campus for the most part is “OK,” but there are a few issues.

“There is technically a route to get to every location, but most of the time it’s down the yellow brick road, across the universe and around the moon,” Carter said.

Automatic doors, although helpful, don’t always work. But for Carter, classroom doors are the worst. It’s a problem she said goes unnoticed.

“When you are pushing yourself, holding your backpack on your lap and also trying to get a door opened and through it, you tend to notice it a lot more,” Carter said.

At the U, both the Center for Disability Services and Facilities Management try to make the campus more accessible for students like Carter. Both groups have projects currently under construction, such as the new wheelchair ramp by the Union.

Chris Burningham, an advisor with the Center for Disability Services, said the U being built on a hill does the most to hinder accessibility. The center works with students in wheelchairs to find a schedule that makes it easier to move from class to class. Students also have access to priority registration, so they can be the first to register for classes meeting their needs.

The center works closely with Commuter Services to provide lifts on campus shuttles. Students can also schedule use of lift vans as an alternative.

The U’s outdated buildings are the final problem Burningham mentioned when it comes to accessibility. Students in wheelchairs may not have access to all parts of an older building. He said administration on campus is dedicated to making a difference on these things, assuring new buildings are brought up to code.

Burningham said it can be tough, especially for students with manual wheelchairs, to move around campus. However, he hopes these services will make a difference.

Shireen Ghorbani, communications specialist for Facilities Management, said three ramps will be ready this Fall Semester.

The first ramp is off of Presidents Circle, near the S.J. Quinney College of Law and up to Simmons Pioneer  Memorial Theatre. The next ramp currently is between OSH and the Union, which Ghorbani is most excited about. She thinks this ramp will solve a major connectivity issue.

Finally, all students are encouraged to use the walkway between the soccer fields and the new Student Life Center due to the construction that will be going on all around it for the new parking garage and basketball center. This is an ADA accessible route.

Ghorbani said the Access Committee works hard with new projects to make sure accessibility is a priority.

Carter said she is grateful for these initiatives and finds teachers and students to be understanding. She also praised the Center for Disability Services, calling it a “remarkable office on campus,” and saying she could go to the center with any problem and it would be fixed right away.

“I definitely get more stares than most, but everyone is so sweet and loving,” Carter said.

e.trepanier@chronicle.utah.edu

@emiliedeeann