Accessible buildings, ethical parking needed

Graphic by Christi Lazutkin | Mercury Staff.

UTD tries to be an accommodating campus for all students, but parking policies and older buildings can hamper the movement of students with physical disabilities.

At UTD, students with a handicap placard are required to purchase a $140 parking pass in order to park in state-designated handicap spaces. It’s commendable that UTD discounts their handicap permits, unlike UNT, SMU, UTA and UT, but a significant cost remains. It seems unethical to charge a fee, especially if that fee’s only purpose is to prevent UTD from selling out of permits too quickly. If the university is worried about handicap parking passes being given away too quickly, the best option isn’t putting a price on permits. Instead, the university should have enough spaces to accommodate all students who need them. It isn’t ethical to charge someone for parking they’re forced to use if they want to continue going to college.

Another hindrance is the architecture of old buildings. There are two eras of buildings on campus, those built before the Americans with Disabilities Act and those built after. Older buildings, like the Student Union, McDermott Library, Founders, Green Hall and Jonsson Academic Center, were not built with accessibility in mind. The ADA was passed in 1990 and mandated all new buildings be accessible to all members of the public.

Jonsson is one of the largest offenders of the pre-ADA buildings. Of the building’s nine public entrances, only two have assisted opening doors, and four have at least one set of stairs in front of them with no ramp. The western part of the building is elevated, and the only way to access it from the college is via several sets of stairs. If you’re unable to use those stairs, the next best option is to enter the eastern part of Jonsson, take the elevator to the fourth floor, go to the western side of the fourth floor, and then take the elevator back down to the ground floor. The only other option is to go to the accessible entrance, located on the opposite side of the building from the mall. While technically complying with the ADA, the building makes movement overly difficult for students who can’t navigate stairs.

This is a ridiculous situation. Renovations would cost money, but we have money. The Alumni Center was recently built with a gift of over $15 million, and the UT System’s endowment is one of the largest university endowments in the world at $24 billion. That’s more than enough money to pay for some powered doors and ramps.

The administration should research accessibility renovations and eliminate the cost associated with handicap permits to make our campus friendlier to all students. According to the Office of Student AccessAbility, there are approximately 1,000 students who receive accommodations from the office, and we should provide them with a campus that goes above and beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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