Project Management and Construction Services is building an accessible pathway between Inner Campus Drive and 21st Street, replacing some of the stairs with ramps in the area.
Jill Stewart is the Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Committee chair at UT, and associate manager for the construction services. She said the services are designing a series of connected ramps and landings that will go between the Graduate School of Business building and the east side of South Mall.
Stewart said the committee has allocated nearly $1.036 million for the project, but the committee will allocate more money if needed. Construction is expected to start in summer 2020,
“These streets link high student activity-focused areas with the central part of campus,” Stewart said. “Our goal is to get folks of any mobility capability from 21st Street up through the sloped terrain with little difficulty.”
Stewart said currently, wheelchair users must go around the buildings or enter through the Graduate School of Business or the College of Business Administration to use the elevator to go up from 21st Street to Inner Campus Drive.
“Trying to move from 21st Street up to Inner Campus Drive is so steep,” Stewart said. “It is not set up for folks with limited mobility to traverse that terrain.”
Graduate student Zoe Colaluca said she uses a manual wheelchair and often goes around the buildings and up the hill at the intersection of Inner Campus Drive to Speedway. However, she said navigating around is difficult, especially if she is carrying something or trying to go down the steep hills.
Colaluca said she is glad the ramps are being built, but hopes they are easy to navigate. She said sometimes even the accessible ramps on campus are too steep for her to use easily.
“I hope when the University is building those ramps, they are aware of how steep those ramps are,” Colaluca said. “Even if something is labeled as accessible, I have found that it does not necessarily mean that it is inclusive or easy to navigate.”
Colaluca said to solve this issue, it is important for the committee to ask students about the difficulties they face when they are designing accommodations.
The committee has one student representative, Emeline Lakrout, marketing senior and president of the disABILITY Advocacy Student Coalition. Lakrout said this space is not the only place on campus where disabled students have to go out of their way to get to their destination.
“There are a lot of places where, if you can’t take stairs, you have to go all the way around a building,” Lakrout said. “I’ve heard from students that they find it possible to get around, but there is definitely a number of places where people find it difficult.”
Stewart said the committee is also currently assessing the accessibility of several streets, including the area between San Jacinto Boulevard and Speedway. Stewart said the committee will evaluate how to proceed with future projects based on that analysis.