Options for accessibility, including accommodations for people with disabilities, are continuing to expand as construction projects proceed on campus.
As evidenced in the recently completed UMBC Event Center, accessibility for students, staff and visitors has played a significant role in recent campus construction projects. During its two years of construction, the building added ramps, accessible parking and general connectivity to its infrastructure — all of which are clearly visible and fully compliant with federal and state regulations. On Friday, Facilities Management and the Office of Accessibility and Disability Services hosted a review and discussion of past, present and future projects to improve campus accessibility.
Additionally, while less noticeable at first glance, there have been a multitude of other improvements in inclusive accommodation as well. These include elevator improvements to the Administration building, upgraded or renovated restrooms within multiple buildings, three new accessible units in the West Hill apartments and new power-operated doors for two active learning classrooms in Janet and Walter Sondheim Hall. These have all been constructed in the past one or two years, and have often been centered around bringing older buildings up to par with newer codes.
Tawny McManus, the director of UMBC’s Student Disability Services, says that the continual improvements reflect the changing needs and demographics of the campus population. “We encourage people to speak up about their issues,” she mentioned, noting its necessity in promoting discussion and change.
Keeping pace with the recent upgrades, further undertakings have been announced to improve accessibility on campus. These include upgrades to the Retriever Activity Center’s facilities and improving access between Janet and Walter Sondheim Hall and the Math & Psychology building.
Some ambitious, non-“auxiliary” projects can also be funded through the Access Maryland Program. This program, set aside by the state of Maryland, was created to facilitate bringing facilities into compliance with government mandates. Ideas for future proposals include a lift for the Biological Sciences building’s north wing, improving the hardware on various doors throughout campus and various access-oriented improvements — most notably to ramps, parking and restrooms — for the Technology Research Center.
Stephanie Lazarus, the Accessibility Manager and ADA/Section 504 Coordinator at UMBC, cautions that the Access Maryland Program does not fund all of the university’s proposals, stating that, typically, “Out of every three [proposals], one is approved.” Nonetheless, she stresses its immense usefulness in funding new projects and points out that proposals can be resubmitted.
Lazarus also notes that these developments reflect UMBC’s commitment to inclusivity and non-discrimination. “Accessibility is everyone’s issue,” she says, adding, “We want to support all our students as effectively as we can and provide an opening for people to feel welcome.”
Students and others with concerns about accessibility, disability services or other accommodations are encouraged to voice their thoughts by contacting the Office of Student Disability Services or by visiting https://accessibility.umbc.edu/.