Disability Services seeks campus guidance in accessibility audit

Emory has made great strides in recent years to incorporate accessible entrances into the design of new campus buildings. However, some older buildings remain difficult to access for faculty, staff and students with mobility impairments.

To address this concern, the Office of Disability Services and Compliance (ODSC) is asking Emory community members to help them identify campus buildings with access problems.

"The accessibility audit will involve not only surveys of buildings by our office, but also our asking faculty and staff to help identify the most important buildings for us to look at," said Deborah Hyde, coordinator of disability services for students in ODSC. "We will then develop a prioritized list of campus buildings. But before we do that, we need feedback from the Emory community, especially faculty, staff and students with disabilities."

Robert Ethridge, associate vice president and director of Equal Opportunity Programs, first proposed the idea of an accessibility audit several years ago, Hyde said. With Ethridge's hiring of Hyde last spring, and ODSC director and ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) Coordinator RoseMary Watkins nearly two years ago, the resources are in place to conduct the audit. [Both Watkins and Hyde report to Paulette Dilworth, director of minority affairs and assistant director of Equal Opportunity Programs.]

Watkins said the self-evaluation process will occur in the fall semester and include not only the Emory campus, but also Oxford College, The Carter Center, Crawford Long Hospital and the Grady campus. Buildings then will be prioritized, with the completion of the final list expected by next summer.

"Public access buildings where major events are held will have the highest priority," Hyde said. "But any campus building that has an employee or student with access issues also will get a high priority. We want the priorities we establish to reflect what the Emory community needs. The more people who are included in that process, the better."

Assisting ODSC in the self-evaluation are Jack Scheu, director of the carpentry shop in Facilities Management, and David Tate from planning and estimating, also in Facilities Management. Frances Curtiss, professor of rehabilitation medicine emeritus and longtime chair of the University Senate Accessibility Subcommittee, also will assist with the project.

Watkins said the office also plans to study directional and informational signage, particularly as it relates to people with disabilities. Watkins said she plans to use the results of that study to develop a campus accessibility map to assist not only Emory community members, but also people with disabilities coming from off campus to University events.

To contact Watkins or Hyde about building accessibility, call 727-1070 (TDD, 727-1065), or send a fax to 727-1126. To reach them by e-mail, send to rwatk02@ emory.edu, or dhyde@ emory.edu.

--Dan Treadaway