By Jo Early
Amarillo College is on the path to becoming more accessible for students with disabilities. Construction is underway across all AC campuses thanks to a $90 million bond passed before the pandemic.
Part of that bond was set to go toward construction projects that would ensure every campus meets Americans with Disabilities, or ADA, compliance. The construction was projected to be finished in 2025, but COVID-19 has caused some delays.
“There is still possibility of finishing by 2025, but COVID virtually costs us a year before we actually got going well,” Danny Smith, master plan project manager, said. “No real changes have been made to the master plan.”
ADA compliance is an ongoing goal for the college according to Pam Jackson, disability services coordinator. “Our office along with our physical plant team work continuously to make sure that all of Amarillo College’s campuses are in compliance with ADA requirements,” she said.
Ali Ramos, a therapist and disability advocate, attended AC up to 2014 as a psychology major. “As I attended, there were several curbs that were inaccessible on 22nd and Washington,” she said. “Overall, the campus was one of the most disability-conscious universities that I have attended.”
The ADA requires adequate space for wheelchair users to be able to turn around, including 5 feet clearance in restrooms. Some restrooms on campus were built before the ADA requirement passed and will need renovations to meet with current code. These renovations will begin soon, according to Smith.
“We are in the process of signing the contracts for our ADA restroom upgrades,” he said. “This project should take about 180 days to complete.”
Additional construction to serve students with disabilities are in the plan. “We are going to provide access across 24th street to the Byrd/Parcells Building from the Oeschger Patio,” Smith said. “Underneath the bridges, a curb height path will be constructed from curb to curb.”
Jackson said she is looking forward to the completion of the renovations. “I am excited about the upcoming ADA compliant upgrades that will happen on our campuses,” she said. “The upgrades will make it safe for all students who attend Amarillo College.”
Ramos praised the college for their advocacy and encouraged current students to speak out. “AC had a great disability services department when I attended, and I know that the same standard is set in place today,” she said. “If you need accommodations, then please make sure that your voice is heard.”