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Survey reveals campus limitations for disabled

April 27, 2012

The UW-River Falls 2012 senior social work class surveyed the campus and how disability friendly it is or is not.

The class is doing this survey as a follow-up on a previous survey done in 2003 by the then senior social class, which found campus to be limiting, social work professor Nora Bedard said.

“Mainly, we have signs all over saying we’re an all inclusive campus, and then there’s these limitations,” Bedard said.

The class from 2003 had a checklist for each building on campus and specific lists for the access into the building, interior building access and the bathrooms. The 2012 class used the same checklist and found little to no improvements since 2003.

Social Work major Erin Bachaus focused on buildings Hagestad Hall and the Karges Center.

“The most significant issue found in both buildings were the lack of signage pointing out the handicapped accessible entrances, brail on doorways and elevators,” Bachaus said.

The class found signage to be one of the biggest issues and the most affordable solution with a significant change.

“We have a lot more suggestions but we know they’re expensive so we’re looking to do this which would be the biggest change, some things aren’t as easy like bathroom stalls being remodeled,” senior Brianna Waldvogel said.

According to Bedard, the class used an average measurement for wheelchairs and went around measuring 26 inches of width on the ramps into buildings, into classrooms, bathrooms and bathroom stalls and found obstacles in many situations. Some buildings such as North Hall have bathrooms on every other floor and the single elevator is on the other side of the building.

The checklist shows other things looked at were: handles on faucets, is toilet paper reachable, accessible doorway powered, height of water fountains and telephones and signs marked in Braille.

Waldvogel said signage is their main focus at this point, and that they are simply nonexistent on buildings.

“I focused on Centennial Science Hall. Something our class found as a whole that would be the biggest change and the least amount of money is signage,” Walkdogel said.

The class has made a goal list of immediate priorities and future goals. Another large issue found was the size of bathroom stalls.

“We’re hoping to actually make a change this time, because people don’t realize it’s a problem and we didn’t either until we thought about it. We want to improve the students’ and visitors’ experience on campus,” Bachaus said.

The class is graduating this spring so until then they’re simply trying to raise awareness and get the project undergoing. Their hopes are to get the University and student organizations involved.

“We’re raising awareness, submitting the survey results to someone with the University and getting student organizations involved. A small change can make a difference,” Waldvogel said.