Closed Doors Leave Disabled Students Behind
Entrance to educational services with handicap accessible door lacking of push-buttons and indicating handicap symbol hinders handicap student access to building and. The Blue handicap symbol near the door of the building symbolizes that the door is handicap accessible but there is no such automatic door. It’s very strange and reveals the lack of management system of the resource center.
For 20-year-old sociology major, Palak Shah, quadratic equations were not the only challenges he faced when going to the math lab.
Despite having a blue handicap symbol adjacent to the outer north entrance of the Library/Learning Resource Center, there is no automatic door.
Shah, who was born with a condition known as Spina Bifida, maintains his mobility with the assistance of a wheelchair.
"It's kind of hard to back up my wheelchair and open the door at the same time," Shah said.
As a result, he often had to rely on the courtesy of a passing student to hold the door open for him.
"I agree there should be [an automatic door]," said Gail Knife Chief, an instructional assistant who works in the math lab.
When asked if she mentioned the problem to the school's administration, she replied, "several times, before the building even moved in."
Paul McKinley, director of Disability Support Services, said that he expressed the need for automatic doors while the building was still in the planning stages as well.
According to McKinley, the original blueprints included push-button operated doors on the building's north entrance.
"One of the reasons they took them out of the plans was they figured students could access the area through the skills center," McKinley said.
While disabled students do have access to push-button operated doors on the building's west side, they have to pass through the skills center to enter the math lab. But the math lab and the skills center open at different hours, so disabled students cannot always enter the math lab via the west entrance.
McKinley admits that, as far as he knows, the school has no current plans to install push-buttons at the entrance in question.
Despite the difficulty imposed on disabled students, McKinley said the building meets requirements set forth by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"I have a saying. It's either code or it's common sense. That building is up to code," McKinley said. "Is it up to common sense? No, it's not."
According to McKinley, Janet Portolan, vice president of educational support, makes decisions relating to physical access.
Portolan mentioned that she could not recall if wheelchair accessible doors were included at the entrance in question during the original planning of the building.
When asked if a push-button would ever be installed, she said it was a possibility.
"It's not out of the question. Nobody has approached me recently to do that," Portolan said. "We'd have to look into it to see how feasible it would be."
Portolan stated it is unclear how much installation of automatic doors would cost, but considerations would factor into future decisions.