Once construction on the Barone Campus Center began, students, faculty and staff had to change their route to the Rudolph F. Bannow Science Center and other buildings on the other side of campus. While many able-bodied students may not have had to put much effort into finding new routes to get around campus, those who are disabled were forced to adjust their travel plans.
Senior Aimee Donohue, who relies on a wheelchair to move across campus, described the impact construction had on how she moves from class to class.
“One day the path I’ve been taking for three years now has changed and I have to backtrack and think of a new route,” said Donohue.
Construction has caused a great amount of change on campus, whether it be the tent outside the BCC or the lack of parking in the Aloysius P. Kelley Center, but those changes have had greater effects on those who need additional resources in terms of accessibility.
Senior Meaghan Hamilton, who uses handicapped parking on campus for mobility reasons, has run into the issue of having school service vehicles in handicapped spots. Hamilton explained how this is problematic for those who are disabled in more ways than one.
“First it promotes a culture on campus where the handicapped spots are not used for actual disabled people,” said Hamilton. “This can be seen as trickling down effect — from administrative acts of ‘reserving’ handicapped spots, to school vehicles taking up the spots, down to students unloading their groceries in handicapped spots.”
Associate Vice President for Facilities Management David Frassinelli explained how facilities responded to the complaints of construction affecting accessibility on campus.
“There have been instances where construction activities have resulted in the elimination of [handicapped] spaces,” said Frassinelli.
When the construction of the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies began, the parking spaces around the construction sites were removed. Facilities responded by adding new handicapped spots by Alumni Hall.
Hamilton has been in touch with both the Department of Public Safety and the administration in order to ensure that the University issued vehicles or regular vehicles would not be in handicapped spaces, but she feels that they have not properly responded to her complaints.
“The most important problem however is the impact that this has on actual disabled people,” said Hamilton. “The BCC parking lot was already a hectic place where it was hard to find a handicapped parking spot and now trying to find one in the middle of the day gets much harder.”
Donohue added that the University has worked with her in order to enhance her college experience. “I think that the accessibility office is really great, I have worked really closely with them over the past four years,” said Donohue. “When I brought my car to campus, there was no handicapped space by McCormick Hall. Once I brought it to their attention, they added one for me.”
Donohue has added that there have been bumps in the road for her due to construction because vehicles would park in spaces where she would normally drive her wheelchair.
Jack Delaney, accessibility program coordinator, described the role of the Academic and Career Development Center (ACDC) regarding accessibility. Due to the construction on campus, ACDC has connected with DPS and Facilities in order to maintain accessibility on campus.
“Given the amount of construction projects on campus currently, students and employees have expressed concerns and we, in turn, communicated with the appropriate offices and personnel to communicate the concerns,” said Delaney.
While Frassinelli said that Facilities have added 342 temporary, regular parking spaces around campus, there have been issues with the actual behavior of the drivers taking up handicapped spaces when they don’t need it. In response to these actions, an email was sent out to the campus community to remind drivers of policies.
Frassinelli placed emphasis on continuing to improve accessibility on campus.
“If there is an area of concern with handicapped access, those concerns should be brought to our attention so we can do our best to take corrective action,” said Frassinelli.