Elevators are almost always a second thought for many UMBC students, as most buildings around campus have them and there are always staircases available as well. For other students, elevators are a lifeline that allow them to get to upper floors that they normally cannot access with stairs. So, what happens if there are no elevators?
One of the goals of the UMBC Office of Student Disability Services is “to coordinate accommodations that will allow students equal access to University courses and programs.” All around campus, there are accessible entrances and walkways that accommodate all students. However, this is not always enough.
In the Walker Avenue apartments, there are no elevators to help students with mobility issues get upstairs. While this is a valid concern, is installing elevators a realistic solution?
According to Greg Capecci, the general manager of the Walker Avenue apartments, installing elevators to meet the needs of students is an important concern, but not an issue UMBC can solve easily. When The Retriever reached out to Capecci, he stated, “One of the main issues with the elevator retrofit concept has to do with the way the building is laid out.”
According to Capecci, the apartments have “twelve different stacks” that are not interconnected. This is a problem when looking at installing elevators since to make every apartment accessible, twelve different elevators would have to be built.
“The addition of these elevator shafts would likely involve eliminating existing stairwells and some of the residential space to accommodate for the construction,” Capecci continued. This would then lead to a possible violation of fire codes because there is a minimum amount of stairwell exits required to meet those code standards.
Another problem is the lack of housing that the university can provide. Reducing residential space in the Walker Avenue apartments would add to the fact that there are not enough housing spaces on campus for students.
Although constructing elevators in the Walker Avenue apartments seems like an improbable solution, it is still possible. “Unless we were looking at only installing the elevators in certain selected stacks, this project would likely be cost-prohibitive,” Capecci expressed. This is a good point since starting to build elevators in only some stacks would allow the apartments to start increasing accessibility for those who need it.
“Ultimately, we will make modifications to the building if we find that the current set-up is insufficient to meet the student’s needs, which we have done for students in the past,” Capecci added, “We encourage students with any particular accommodation requests to reach out to us, and we will work with them and the University to make sure we are getting them the accommodations that they need.”