Construction obstructs handicap access

The bigger construction jobs on campus are currently localized at Wood Center and the Fine Arts Complex. Both of these jobs are for renovations for both areas. However, the fences are impeding foot traffic on campus overall. For most this means walking around to other entrances, however these detours can prove problematic for disabled persons.

The ramp access door next to the Fine Arts Building now has a detour traveling around the side of the building. These construction projects have stretched into the school year causing the need for detours to be made on campus around building entrances and walkways.

When asked about accessibility on campus Jessica Obermiller, an anthropology student at UAF with mobility needs expressed concern.

“My biggest problem with construction on campus is the blocking of handicapped parking, mainly, and also the access ramps onto the sidewalks sometimes are blocked by construction vehicles. So, that’s been my biggest problem,” Obermiller said.

“When alterations are made to a primary function area, such as the lobby of a bank or the dining area of a cafeteria, an accessible path of travel to the altered area must also be provided.” According to Alaska Department of Administration’s website public FAQ page.

While the construction is not breaking a law or rule by obstructing the handicap ramp by the art building, people needing that accessibility have still expressed displeasure with the blockage, particularly lacking other options for building access.

“I don’t really know about alternative routes,” Obermiller said. “I pretty much stay on lower campus myself, I’m not on upper campus much. I work in Bunnell, so I’m kind of over there a lot where there’s a lot of construction too, so not really any alternative routes that I personally use or can think of.”

When asked about the construction and how it is impeding foot traffic, specifically by the fine arts building’s handicap ramp, which is currently blocked off by fences, Jonathan Shambare, senior architect for Facilities Services, wrote an email detailing the efforts being made.

“Design and Construction Office (DDC) reviews all construction projects that are under construction to ensure that we have alternatives to access if the main ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access is temporarily not available,” Shambare wrote, in regards to accessibility on campus, citing that the university follows the ADA guidelines.

Thus far, according to Shambare, they have not received further comments on the matter.

“No one specifically has reached out to our office with a specific complaint,” Shambare wrote. “If they do, we will contact the individual with the complaint to determine the best way to help.”

Construction on campus is estimated to be “…substantially completed by Mid-November,” Shambare wrote. He also expressed that students should exercise patience with the construction on campus as it comes to a close.

Further information about the ADA compliance program can be found on the Alaska Department of Administration website. Students can also reach the UAF Disability Services Office by calling (907) 474-5655.

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