The Center for New Media (CNM) accessibility concerns include furniture and equipment arrangements in classrooms. Rooms used to teach digital media in longer session courses are not universally accessible. The chairs are non-adjustable to fit varying sized students, lack proper foot rests and the seats are too low in relation to the approximate 44-inch high workstation.
Ergonomics call for seat height and angle adjustments, provide for a flat foot rests and require seat heights so a person’s forearms are horizontal when working at a computer. To meet the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] guidelines for wheelchair accessibility, desk heights are normally set at 29 or 30 inches above the floor. Not all students have sought help from the college despite living with a disability.
“I haven’t asked for help [from the DRC]. I stumble through it. Pardon the pun,” says Buddy Morgan, an SLCC student who suffered a spinal injury in vehicle accident. “But I would if the need ever came to be.”
Sitting for extended periods, or in non-adjustable chairs, can cut off blood circulation and pose nerve issues, stiffness and pain, even to the most fully abled.
“Honestly, the size of the campus is frustrating at times because of how far apart classes can be–the sheer walking,” says Morgan. “That is me though. I know they can’t fix that. Desk heights are important to me. The higher desks means I need to stand up more.”
The taller desk heights were specified in some of CNM classrooms to actually assist instructors when helping students at their individual stations explained Susan Fielden, who teaches Illustrator software courses. Instructors do not have to awkwardly bend lower to see the student’s screen or operate a mouse, and can remain standing moving from student to student.
“I’ve had to bring a crate to stand on while teaching,” says Fielden, whose classes are in room 2-078 on South City Campus.
Her issue is not one of disability but one of universality. She is not tall enough to see her students behind the large Apple displays set up at each workstation.
“They are making a solution for me, a small podium,” says Fielden. “They are also supposed to switch out the chairs this semester for the students, too, replacing them with higher ones.”
Raising the non-adjustable chairs in classroom 2-098 is proposed by semester’s end, according to Andrew Wilson, who teaches website design and animation.
In classroom 2-081 of the new addition, where MIDI music composition and audio classes are taught, poor sight lines are present where students are not able to clearly see the instructor or projection screen.
In some cases, the lowered screen covers the white boards used for instruction as in 1-056. The lowered screen extends so low that the desk surfaces block the view of students in the back of the room.
“They are supposed to correct the screen height and adjust the projector angle,” says Thomas Baggaley, who teaches MIDI music composition in 2-081. “We apologize and thank everyone for their patience. It’s frustrating, I know.”
The desks installed in 2-081 were planned for replacement by Sept. 16, according to Baggaley. Because of the delay, students have not been able to use the computer workstations and keyboards there.
It will take some more time before all of the construction of the CNM is complete.
Atop a stack of files and paper on Richard Scott’s desk lay the Temporary Occupancy Permit granting permission for the school to operate at this time. Temporary Occupancy Permits are issued under provision that a final checklist of items is yet to be completed for inspection.
“Just barely in time,” says Scott about receiving the permit, “and it’s been a rough first week.”
Construction crews in hard hats continue working while classes are in session. Drilling, hauling materials and implementing final touches are common.
“If it wasn’t complete and intended so, they’d have a hole cut there for the button to go in,” says Rolands, about the missing library door activator.
Neither Scott nor Birch could confirm if an activator for the library entrance door was part of the final checklist for the CNM.
“I’d have to review the ADA requirements for that. Not all doors are required to be ADA-compliant,” says Birch.
Historical and existing buildings have different requirements, and the CNM is considered an addition and remodel to an existing structure.
According to Birch, only 50 percent of the accessible entrances are required to have activators.
“We ask for patience from everyone because this is not unlike moving into a new house,” says Scott. “If you have ever remodeled or been under construction, you understand the challenge.”
Michael Hawker, M.Arch, M.S., is an NCARB-certified and registered architect currently studying Visual Arts and Communication at SLCC. He graduated recently from SLCC with an AAS in Energy Management and would welcome comments, responses, and/or letters regarding ADA, accessibility, sustainable or universal design or campus architecture/planning from students, faculty or staff. Please send or contact him at email@example.com