During her freshman year, Naili Salehuddin, who is legally blind, got lost for two hours trying to find her classroom.
Advertising sophomore Salehuddin said she was looking for her Chinese class scheduled to be in Robert Lee Moore Hall (RLM) on the fifth floor but couldn’t find her classroom because the rooms on the floor didn’t have braille signage.
She said she walked into the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (CPE) building when she thought she had the wrong building but said some of the rooms in the building also didn’t have proper braille signage. She said she then went back to RLM, took pictures of every door she passed by and zoomed in on the numbers to eventually find her classroom.
“This was one of my worst experiences at UT,” Salehuddin said. “It felt alienating to find out that the room numbers weren’t accessible. There’s a lot of other places on campus that are not accessible as well. It’s really sad.”
But by the end of the summer, a new UT project plans to help make sure missing braille signage is no longer a problem in the CPE building. UT’s Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Committee is embarking on a multi-year project to upgrade the CPE building and two other engineering buildings with ADA compliant accommodations starting in the summer.
Jill Stewart, chair of the committee, said the committee assessed the accessibility of buildings around campus in spring 2018 and found multiple violations of Texas Accessibility Standards in Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall, the CPE building and the Engineering Teaching Center.
Stewart, the associate director of Project Management and Construction Services, said these violations included chairs which can’t be moved, bathroom stalls that are too small for a wheelchair and doors without braille signs.
“According to our assessment, those buildings have a lot of classroom usage and student flow through them,” Stewart said. “You team that up with the fact that we were already doing work in that area (the engineering complex). It was a good combination to bring all that funding and additional work to
Stewart said the committee allocated $1.5 million for all the renovations in the three buildings, which will improve paths of travel, restrooms, door hardware and seating. She said all the components are still in design, so the timeline and total project cost is in evaluation.
Emeline Lakrout, disABILITY Advocacy Student Coalition (DASC) president, said she and other coalition members compiled a list and videos of inaccessible areas around campus, which included areas in the engineering complex.
Marketing senior Lakrout recently joined the committee and said she aims to show them some problems fully-abled people might not notice.
“I try my best to bring forth the issues that are prioritized by students on campus,” Lakrout said. “I see them in my capacity as the president of DASC and my own experience. I try to bring light to the small everyday things that the committee might not be aware of.”