Handicap accessibility around Briar Cliff may be a problem

Morgan Kulzer
Broadcast News Producer

Briar Cliff University is up to date on all codes concerning handicap accessibility, but that does not mean the school is easy to get around when in a wheelchair. 

Last year Jeanne Emmons, professor of English, broke her leg and was confined to a wheelchair for some time. One of the bigger problems Emmons faced was parking. 

“The handicap spots are toward the west end of the building,” said Emmons. “So the closest door to go into would be the west door of Heelan, which is near the elevator. Unfortunately there are steps there and no ramp. So you cannot get to the elevator if you are in a wheelchair.”

Handicap spots for Heelan Hall are nowhere near the automatic door by the chapel. Emmons said she would start parking by Noonan to better access the automatic door. Once Emmons was able to use crutches she said she was more inclined to use the handicap parking since she could walk down stairs. 

Another problem Emmons had was the old bathrooms in Heelan. Because of the renovation, Heelan Hall now has new bathrooms that are up to code, according to Jim Brygger, liaison officer and retired architect. 

“[In] some of the old restrooms you had to go up a couple steps to get into them,” said Brygger. “They are history and all the new restrooms are handicap accessible. To my knowledge, and again I was not the architect that designed the place, it will be totally handicap accessible. It has to be in order to even get a building permit in Sioux City.”

The handicap bathroom stalls are located right when you walk in the door, which Emmons said may be fine as long as someone is not coming in while you are trying to get into the stall. 

“I’m not saying they are in the wrong spot, maybe it works just fine,” said Emmons. “I would have to get in the wheelchair and see. But I think we do not test those things out enough. In terms of Heelan, we are not very handicap accessible.”

As far as the entire campus, Lyndze Thompson, senior and student ambassador, said she would not come here if she were in a wheelchair. 

“It would be too hard to deal with everything. There is absolutely nothing here that is helpful I think,” said Thompson. “Every day would be a struggle.”

Laundry is among the many issues Thompson said would be difficult for someone in a wheelchair. 

“There are no front loading washers and dryers,” said Thompson. “Java City [counter] is too high. There are two low tables in the whole [atrium] area. There are no handicap accessible buttons on the new doors. Parking is an issue, there are very few parking [spots] for handicap accessibility.”

If a handicap student were to live in Alverno he or she would have to go around campus to get to the automatic door, said Thompson. 

As for the new doors, Brygger said that to his knowledge there is no plan to make them automatic.  

“The ADA code does not require all [the doors] to be electric,” said Brygger. “But they do require a minimum tension to be put on the door. Which gets to be a problem here on top of the hill where you have these tremendous winds. Sometimes to open a door it seems harder than it really is.”

One of the reasons, according to Thompson, that we do not have more of a disabled population is because we are a sports based institution. 

“There are no students with disabilities here,” said Thompson, “besides your sports injuries.” 

She said she felt “almost ashamed” that the school does not have that kind of diversity. 

“They are human” said Thompson, “nothing makes them different other than that they are in a wheelchair. I think it is kind of a blind eye that you do not notice those things until you are impacted by it or you have a family member that is disabled.”

 

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Submitted by kulzerm on Tue, 10/23/2012 - 16:21

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