Collaboration that opens doors
A brief chat led to a big campus accessibility improvement, and you might not even notice.
October 8, 2019
A small but significant change recently took place on the Metropolitan State University of Denver campus, and it all started with a friendly conversation.
While waiting for an elevator in the Jordan Student Success Building this semester, Larry Sampler, chief operating officer and vice president for Administration and Finance, chatted with a Roadrunner using a wheelchair. When the woman tried to enter the elevator, the doors closed almost immediately and briefly pinned her chair.
The woman told Sampler that this sort of thing happened all the time. She proceeded to show him that the push-button doors on the building’s exterior closed before she could even reposition her chair to enter.
Luckily, she was talking to the right person. Sampler’s purview includes Facilities and Space Planning, and he quickly coordinated an interdepartmental effort to review not only accessibility but also usability. The team included Leone Dick, interim director of operations and maintenance for Facilities, chief of staff to the vice president for Administration; Jason Murillo, building engineer; and Greg Sullivan, director, Access Center.
“This is a perfect example of ‘serendipitous opportunities to serve,’” Sampler said. “We have systems to ensure that our services to students are of the best possible quality and are constantly improving. But when an opportunity like this comes up, it’s gratifying to be able to intervene and make something better.”
Murillo worked with contractors Stanley and Sandoval to adjust the door and elevator timing from their ADA-compliant settings to those that better reflect user needs. Exterior doors at the JSSB are now set to close after 13 seconds, as opposed to 9; elevator doors have been moved from 8 seconds to 11 seconds.
“We care about equity, inclusion and accessibility for all students, but ADA code is not always one-size-fits-all,” Sullivan said. “For many users, the timing was probably not an issue, but for some it is because of their mobility and fine motor skills.”
Sullivan encourages Roadrunners to report accessibility issues anywhere on campus. Whether the issue is related to infrastructure or learning accommodations, the Access Center will work with campus partners such as Murillo, Dick and Auraria Higher Education Center staff to address it promptly.
In this case, the problem was solved within three weeks, but efforts to improve usability are ongoing. The Facilities team has plans to complete a campus-accessibility tour to identify other areas of opportunity, focusing on study areas and furnishings. Dick said the team is also installing a remote door-opening system operable from the JSSB welcome desk to further enhance accessibility for all community members.
If you have accessibility suggestions, complete the Physical Accessibility Issue Form on theAccess Center website.
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