New initiatives on campus aim to improve accessibility

An accessibility sign stands in front of Talley Student Union on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. These signs are important for showing people who are not able to take some paths an alternative path to take to access major campus buildings.

NC State efforts to improve accessibility on campus for students, faculty, staff and visitors have increased over the past year to include not only physical accommodations, but educational and online ones as well.

The university has several departments on campus that are consistently working to ensure that accessibility issues on campus are addressed. Cameron Smith, senior director of capital project management in the NC State facilities division, said that many accessibility project decisions on campus are made by the ADA Account Funds Advisory Committee.

“That group decides the priorities of how the ADA funds will be used every year,” Smith said. “We don’t get a whole lot of money every year but the money we do get gets prioritized via a list of projects across campus. They have a continuously running list of projects that they prioritize every year.”

The committee is composed of six members: three from the facilities division and one from University Housing, NC State’s Disability Services Office and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. The committee is currently looking to add more accessibility additions soon.

“Some of the ones we have got on the docket for the future,” Smith said. “We have some ADA entrances at Scott Hall, some exterior signage and interior signage at Nelson, Danny and Cox. We’ve got some bathroom modifications in a couple of different buildings that are on the list. We’ve got some more curb cuts. … What we’d like to do is really revise our ADA transition plan.”

One of the biggest challenges that the department faces with accessibility improvements is funding.

“We just don’t have enough funding to do all the projects we want to do, not just ADA but campus wide,” Smith said. “Just prioritization, trying to prioritize the highest needs, sometimes we get specific requests in.”

Accessibility initiatives are not just limited to the facilities division at NC State. Other departments on campus are making strides to help accommodate those who live with disabilities. Mia Self, the assistant director of acting and directing at University Theatre and the accessibility coordinator on University Theatre staff, discussed the addition of audio descriptions and closed captioning performances at University Theatre.

“We wanted to do more for our patrons with blindness and low vision and deafness or hearing impairment,” Self said. “We have added on the first Friday of every main stage show, an audio described performance and a closed caption performance. A patron could take advantage of both services if they so chose.”

According to Self, the addition of these accessibility options were added last spring at the University Theatre production of “An Ideal Husband.”

“We worked with [Carolinas Captioning], which is out of Charlotte,” Self said. “They are the same business that works with the Disability Service Office if a student needs captioning for lectures in the classroom, they provide that service as well. NC State has had a long-term relationship with them.”

University Theatre is not the only department that works with captioning for students on campus. Crystal Tenan, the IT accessibility coordinator at the Office of Information Technology (OIT), said her office works not only with captioning for students, faculty and staff, but also website accessibility.

“We’re working on our web accessibility,” Tenan said. “My office runs a report on the accessibility of those sites and then my office provides support on how to fix any accessibility barriers that are found. My office also does training for the campus. Just this past week we had a course that was geared toward faculty on accessible course design and that was with DELTA.”

The trainings are geared towards faculty, but Tenan said that she hopes to include students in these as well.

“We have a very broad spectrum of students and individuals on our campus who are going to learn differently, take the information differently,” Tenan said. “By all of it being accessible, it’s really going to meet everyone’s needs.”

Self said that in terms of spreading accessibility improvements throughout campus, it helps tie into the university’s promise of diversity and inclusion.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Self said. “We want people to have access to the work that we do and we want to be inclusive and accessibility is a huge part of how we should be looking at diversity and inclusion.”

Students can visit OIT’s website of the Disability Service Office’s website for more information regarding accessibility accommodations.

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