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The Event Center (above) is currently under construction and is expected to be completed sometime during the spring of next year. It will be fully accessible to handicapped individuals. Photo by Tyler Lewis.

UMBC seeking equal footing for all

While UMBC already prides itself as an inclusive and accessible campus, the teams at Facilities Management, Student Disability Services, Human Relations and many others are continuously seeking ways to improve accessibility and inclusivity to better unify all members of the campus.

On Feb. 8 Facilities Management and Student Disability Services representatives gave their biannual update on accessibility. In this presentation, they outlined campus accessibility initiatives ranging from replacing old round handled doorknobs with wheelchair-friendly knobs, to upgrading service ramps to 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act qualified wheelchair ramps.

Besides building all future structures with the latest ADA specifications and upgrading the buildings that do not currently meet these specifications, Facilities Management and SDS have a lot more in stock for years to come. For one, they are teaming up on a project to build a lift in the Biological Sciences building, starting in 2019. Beyond that, the new Events Center, which should be finished by 2018, plans to be 100 percent accessible. They also plan to update all bathrooms on campus and build all of the future all-gender restrooms with accessibility in mind.

These teams are even going as far to start planning an Accessibility Center on campus. Human relations manager Stephanie Lazarus said it will be “for people to go to specifically … we’re hoping to direct [their] questions to this site.” However, she assures that SDS will remain separate, in the renovated section of the Math/Psych building.

Another improvement mentioned by the speakers coincided with the construction of the new Life Sciences building, which will stand where the Academic Services building currently does. This involves tweaking of existing walkways to help better facilitate the inclusion of handicapped persons in the quad.

Perhaps a keynote of the presentation was the Access Maryland program. Access MD is a initiative of the state to allocate funding to state facilities in order to renovate existing structures to be more handicap friendly.

Celso Guitian, from Planning and Construction Services, voiced that “UMBC has been incredibly successful in this program … with $2.2 million being awarded to UMBC [since the start of the program].” He went on to discuss how many of the recent accessibility renovations have been funded by Access MD and how many of those improvements have been recommendations of students. He assures the audience “we welcome your ideas.”

While the current round of Access MD idea submissions ends on March 1, Guitian assured the audience that Facilities Management is constantly accepting ideas throughout the year. Lazarus concluded the presentation by urging the students to be on the lookout for anything that could make the campus more accessible. “Please reach out to us … we want to go a step beyond ADA compliant to ADA friendly.”

All in attendance of this presentation were given an Access MD idea form that could be filled out should they have an idea that could make UMBC more accessible. The form goes on to compel those with ideas to contact Stephanie Lazarus or Celso Guitian by email or the individual’s senate Human Relations Committee member.