BY MADDIE LEUBKE
In the past 10 years, Alma has renovated many campus buildings in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and plans to update more of the larger campus buildings, despite student concerns about the current state of smaller living facilities.
ADA requires buildings built or updated following 1985 —the year that ADA went into effect — to adhere to certain accessibility standards, such as the inclusion of ramps and ensuring hallways and doors are a certain width.
According to Head of Facilities Doug Dice, updating buildings to meet ADA standards is a long and challenging process, and usually requires major changes to the building design. “Many students don’t realize how long it takes to make these sorts of upgrades. The plans for North Campus dorm renovations have been in place for over a year, and it takes a long time before plans get approval and funding is in place.”
Accessibility complaints from students included the removal of a handicap ramp from the Theta Chi fraternity house over the summer, which according to Dice was removed due to its unsafe condition. “I’m not upset about it being taken away, but there was no communication and no planning to replace it,” said John Stefanek (’19). “We just want a permanent solution. Our organization has alumni that are handicapped, and when they come back for homecoming the ramp makes their experience back in Alma better.”
Accessible South Campus housing proves rare with only three of six fraternities and one of six sororities with ramps. Themed housing has a similar number of accessible buildings.
“We would like to make all of the small housing spaces comply with ADA, but many of those upgrades would require major construction. The college has to prioritize public spaces and dorm buildings that contain more people,” said Dice.
Though some living spaces lack accessibility, Dice pointed out the advancements made thus far. “We have made upgrades to a majority of buildings on campus since I began working at Alma, including the Swanson Academic Center and Eddy Music Building.”
However, some students feel like the changes already made to those buildings still could use some improvements, like adding more handicap buttons to doors.
“It is really frustrating because it makes me not want to use my mobility device as often,” said Chapin Kartsounes (’21). “It quickly becomes more work to use my device than to walk. I don’t think handicap buttons are that hard to install, and it makes riding on my scooter so much easier.”
Although the plans are in beginning stages, an upcoming project is focused on making the Chapel more handicap friendly, with planned upgrades like moveable seating, an elevator, wider hallways and a more permanent ramp.
Houses that would like to have a ramp available for guests during events on campus can request temporary ramps through Alma College Facilities.