University considers the handicapped in new buildings

Stacey Sutton

Two new buildings that open their doors on Northern Kentucky University’s campus in the next two years-the new science building and a new residence hall, will feature increased accessibility for the handicapped.

The new science building is first building to be built on campus since the Americans with Disabilities act was passed in 1992. The new science center will be the easiest building on campus for disabled people to travel around in, said Mary Paula Schuh, director of campus planning.

“It is the most accessible building we have,” Schuh said. “We tried to do a better job of making the building available for everyone.”

In designing the $38 million science building, the university learned from some of the problems the other buildings on campus posed for handicapped people , Schuh said.

One of the main improvements in the science center is the design of the bathrooms, Schuh said. For easy entrance, the building’s four bathrooms will have no doors at the entrance, and to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the handicapped stalls are made wider to encompass its own sink. “That will help a lot,” said Jeff Murray,a senior who suffers from a spinal chord injury leaving him confined to wheelchair. Murray said the current stalls are too small to be able to move in.

Schuh said the accessibility feature she is most proud of in the 155,000 square-foot building is the landscape design.

The building will have a ramp from the plaza level of campus to the building and a ramp from the building to the street. This would allow a person in a wheelchair the only way to get up to the plaza level of campus without taking an elevator, she said. The science laboratories will conform to ADA guidelines and provide handicapped work stations with lower tables and lower equipment. “It(the laboratories) should be in pretty good shape for handicapped folks,” said Jerry Warner, chairman of the biology department.

Carol Maschinot, a senior with Osteogenosis Imperfecti that leaves her in a wheelchair, said the university has been very receptive to the needs of the disabled, but she said more needs to be done other than simply adjusting the heights of tables and adding more ramps. Osteogenosis Imperfecti stunted Maschinot’s growth, and she said this makes it hard for her to reach objects, such as faucets in bathrooms. Rather than simply making tables short, Maschinot suggests that more is done to make objects like tables adjustable in height to suit many different disabilities.

“There are all kinds and sizes of disabled people,” Maschinot said.

The university, however, has done all it can with its limited budget to improve the quality of life for disabled students, and the new science center is no exception, said Dale Adams, director of disability services. “We want to make this university inclusive,” Adams said,” and in this new building, we look forward to it being a showcase to demonstrate how inclusive this university really is.”

Residence Hall will consists of many features to aid the disabled:
The second building on campus to be built under ADA guidelines will be a residence hall scheduled to open in 2003.The design of the building hasn’t been sketched out yet, said Todd Duncan, director of university housing, but the university plans to modify some of the rooms and add features to aid disabled people wishing to live on campus.

The hall will house 400 students and two elevators.’ According to campus planning, some rooms on the bottom level of the dormitory will be modified with wider doors and roll-in showers for the handicapped.’ There are also many small details which need to be addressed to make a dorm room comfortable for a disabled person in a wheelchair, Adams said.’

Making sure the carpet isn’t too think for a wheelchair to move over;’ keeping the height of the cabinets low enough; placing the peephole in the door lower and installing the refrigerator away from a corner to allow for optimum mobility are all factors that need to be considered, said Adams.

Duncan said they will make every effort possible to make Residential village hospitable to those with handicaps.’ Already, Woodcrest and Norse Hall have a combined 19 rooms that have wider doors and modified bathrooms for wheelchair residents.’

Currently, only one student in a wheelchair resides on campus. Duncan said the fact that handicapped accessibility is playing a large role in the early stages of the design shows their commitment to inclusion.

“It is the right thing to do,” Duncan said, “and the bottom line is that Northern is going to do the right thing.”