by Norberto Perez | Staff Writer |
More than $10 million is being invested toward making the path to higher education more accessible to the handicapped at CSUSB.
Current and potential students affected with disabilities will have an easier time going to and from classes, meetings and other campus events once the current construction projects are completed.
Hamid Azhand, the Director and Executive Facilities Officer of Capital Planning, Design and Construction Division (CPDC), has been overlooking the renovation challenge since this summer.
“These construction activities around campus are part of the accessibility ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements. The project has been funded by the state to comply with accessibility requirements,” said Azhand.
The changes to the campus come after a civil class action suit filed in 2005 by nine CSUSB students.
The lawsuit states that the school was in violation of “Title II of the ADA,” and “Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”
The former statute states that the school is in violation if they, “Deny access to programs, services, benefits or opportunities to participate as a result of physical barriers.”
The latter regulation states that the school “Must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs, and activities because buildings are inaccessible.”
Furthermore, the law adds, “Public entities must ensure that newly constructed buildings and facilities are free of architectural and communication barriers that restrict access or use by individuals with disabilities.”
In 2007, the United States District Court ruling was in favor of the CSUSB students.
Progress may seem slow but Azhand also added, “The funding came from state general obligation bond fund which was approved about three years ago.”
He continued, “There are numerous bidding packages which will start at different times and will complete at different times. Some projects are complete with some others in construction phase, bidding phase, or design phase.”
The award-winning CPDC, which is responsible for changes to the campus master plan, is complying with the court ruling.
The curbside improvements at the front of University Hall will be a little detour to most students but greatly appreciated by the disabled when completed.
Other changes around the campus will be completed soon.
The CPDC is ready to improve the campus to fit a diverse population including those with: learning disabilities, deaf or hearing impaired, blind or visually impaired, mobility impaired, psychological or cognitive disabilities, and temporary disabilities.
“Getting around campus isn’t too bad but there are significant splits and divots in the road that make for rough travel.”
A student who wished to remain anonymous said, “As for communication, between me personally and the faculty, is where the real problem is.
They stress it is my responsibility to ensure communication between whatever links they need to provide those services. No one has explicitly listed what my “rights” are.”
Dr. Beth Jaworski, Director of Services to Students with Disabilities, serves approximately 550 students.
“SSD conducts periodic surveys (some are focused on a particular service area while others are more broad-based) to understand students’ needs better and evaluate and enhance services, there are a number of methods that individuals (students, staff, faculty and visitors) may use to report accessibility issues. One method is through the Campus Accessibility Advisory Board.”
Services to Students with Disabilities has received augmented funds to address legal requirements.