ADA forum addresses funding, other student concerns

Trinady Joslin

The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Committee held one-hour forums on Wednesday, April 17 and Tuesday, April 23 to hear student concerns and suggestions for improving campus-wide accessibility issues.

A major point of discussion centered around funding, after Emeline Lakrout, senior vice president of Disability Advocacy Student Coalition, began Wednesday’s conversation by asking how much the committee received.

Within a larger restoration and renewal fund that addresses building maintenance issues and signage, Jill Stewart, associate director for project management and construction services, said a smaller portion is allotted to improve ADA compliance in terms of building access and path of travel violations.

“This year, the amount of money allocated to ADA accessibility projects is $3 million,” Stewart said. “In years past, it’s been far less than that, so we don’t know for sure what it’s going to be year to year.”

The 2019 $3 million budget also includes a discretionary fund to support specific projects as they arise, in addition to violations already being addressed.

Past funding was approximately $1 million, said ADA coordinator Jennifer Maedgen. While this funding exclusively goes toward addressing building and path of travel concerns, a plan developed by the committee includes other accessibility issues such as electronic and transportation accommodations.

To address these areas, departments such as construction or parking and transportation contribute indirectly by increasing ADA compliance while completing projects within their department.

“As we work on projects inside the buildings, some of the discretionary fund becomes available, and we allocate it to where we see a heavier traffic building,” Stewart said. “If there are specific accommodation requests, we do our best to take those into consideration.”

These projects help check off tasks within the committee’s ADA transition plan without using the committee’s budget. 

This year, the committee worked to make three different buildings ADA compliant and will begin construction in summer 2019 to improve navigation of two frequently used paths.

Stephanie Myers, deputy ADA coordinator, said the $95 million plan has no definitive deadline, as it’s reliant on fluctuating funding.

“We would love to be able to say something definitive, like within 10 years,” Myers said. “More than likely, it’ll be a 15- or 20-year plan, if not longer.”

One of these ideas includes a transportation system for disabled students through Parking and Transportation, but Maedgen said issues with topography, cost and safety have kept the idea in its developmental phases.

“It would be very difficult, in part due to the navigation on campus, to develop a point-to-point transportation system,” Maedgen said. “We’ve looked at alternatives, like a shuttle system going up and down Speedway.”

Other issues also addressed at the forum included visitor accessibility during sporting events, lack of staffing at Services for Students with Disabilities and the availability of training for professors.