An accessibility ramp at Knight-Crane Hall.
Recently renovated Knight-Crane was designed to be a handicap-accessible building. It has a ramp leading up to two of its entrances, railings along its stairs, and an elevator inside the building. However, not all buildings on campus have been recently renovated and the campus as a whole is old. As Vice President for Campus Planning and Services Bill Nichols said, “[Queens] has a bit of a ways to go.”
In an interview during the spring semester, Nichols said that all newly built or renovated buildings on campus are required to be handicap accessible, this includes the bathrooms of the buildings, by code. Many of the university’s older buildings, however, don’t meet this code.
Three such buildings that Nichols talked about were McEwen, Watkins, and Morrison, all of which lack elevators. While Queens doesn’t have a plan for an elevator for McEwen yet, Nichols said the other two buildings do. There is a design to put an elevator in the northeast corner of Morrison that will travel between all of its floors. Watkins may get an elevator if it is turned back into a dorm, which is something Queens is considering.
The outside of the buildings are just as problematic as the inside. Recent graduate Julie Lang, a student who suffered from cerebral palsy, said in a spring semester email that one of her biggest fears when getting around campus were the amounts of loose bricks. While Lang said she was fortunate enough to not need the assistance of a walking aid, she thought it could be disastrous if a wheel or a walker got stuck on one of those loose bricks.
Nichols said that some of the bricks on campus are easier to replace than others. Older paths require large chunks to be replaced while newer ones can have bricks replaced individually.
The more newly built paths have a four inch layer of concrete underneath as well as a screen of granite that’s fine like sand. Whenever an older chunk of pathing is replaced, campus services uses concrete underneath so that it is easier to replace in the future. As an example, Nichols used a 100 square foot area of Trexler courtyard that was recently replaced. Nichols also said that if there is a spot in the brick pathing that needs to be replaced, campus services should be doing it right away.
Another concern Lang had for navigating around campus were the amount of stairs around campus. One such set of stairs Nichols discussed were the stairs between McEwen and Trexler leading down to the academic wing. He said that a ramp by those stairs has been discussed but it is an issue of funding because “such a high differential [in height]” would require a really long ramp.
Nichols expressed that he believes the campus is still far from being sufficiently handicap accessible, but because of an issue of cost the university has to prioritize some improvements over others. He said the elevator in the library needs to be replaced because “people are too scared to ride it,” however the cost of replacing it would be $200,000.
Julie Lang finished her email with how she believed the campus could be improved to be more handicap friendly. She said all handicap accessible routes should be marked and that there should be handrails in front of all buildings. She believed all tour guides and admissions staff should know how to navigate campus as if they had a physical limitation, helping both their navigation and giving them a better chance at choosing Queens. Lang said that students themselves should know that there are provisions that could be made in the campus handbook and that classes can be moved to accommodate those with disabilities.
“There are ways to make it work. Still even if you have physical limitations you should be able to enjoy our campus without being worried about how to navigate it.”