By BETHANY FOX
About $4 million of the money Amarillo College has been allocated from the 2019 bond election will be spent ensuring campus facilities are accessible for students with disabilities.
Accessibility updates will help AC campuses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a law that protects those with disabilities from discrimination and ensures everyone has the same rights and opportunities.
These updates are a top priority for AC renovations.
“Some of these updates will be made this fall semester, but some are certain to carry over into the spring,” Joe Wyatt, the communications content producer, said. “Since ADA updates have been prioritized, they should mostly be addressed during the 2020-2021 school year.”
Architects will inspect all the AC campuses and look for ADA violations. “They will inspect and assess ADA compliance problems that are not just about access, but about ease of mobility for disabled persons on the interior of our properties,” Wyatt said. “For example, when a shelf extends too far from a wall in a bathroom and someone who is visually impaired and uses a cane to move around can’t detect the shelf with a cane, these are the type of problems that must be resolved.”
Pam Jackson is the advising associate in the disAbility department and she works with students to assure equal access to programs and services at AC. Jackson said she is excited about the upcoming ADA compliance upgrades. “This will make it safe for all students who attend AC,” Jackson said. “For instance, in the bathrooms there are coat rack hangers that will have to be moved.”
The upgrades will help students such as Chris Brandon, a general studies major, who has a visual impairment that only allows him to see large figures and shapes. Before Brandon started classes this semester, he said Jackson walked him around campus so that he could get a mental picture of where he would be going for classes. “The fact that people with disabilities are taken into account, is great,” Brandon said.
When Jackson meets with students, she hears their concerns about accessibility on campus. “Students have complained about things like doors being too heavy to open or wheelchair buttons on doors not working,” Jackson said. Brandon had complaints about the vending machines screens not being large enough for him to read.
Every building has room for improvement when it comes to accessibility, Wyatt said.
“All of our buildings seem to have obstacles that need to be addressed, and we’re working very conscientiously to make sure we remedy as many of these issues as we possibly can.”