Sidewalk construction temporarily shuts down accessible entrance to three residence halls

Cat Murphy, Staff Writer

A construction “oversight” resulted in a temporary closure of the only accessible entrance to three of the residence halls located on Quinnipiac University’s Mount Carmel campus, said Sal Filardi, vice president for facilities and capital planning.

Construction blocked the only accessible entrance to Complex residence halls Oct. 18-21 (Jack Spiegel)

The sidewalk stretching from Bobcat Way to the Complex courtyard underwent construction between Oct. 18-21. The construction, which is now completed, shuttered the section of the walkway which encompassed the ramp in front of Perlroth. The ramp provides the only accessible route to Sahlin Hall, Founders Hall and Bakke Hall.

Filardi told the Chronicle that the sidewalk outside the Complex underwent construction to replace damaged sections of the walkway that posed a potential safety hazard to pedestrians.

“The sidewalk itself was a safety issue,” Filardi said. “While yes, (the construction) closed the ramp for a little bit, before they closed the ramp, it was a tripping (hazard).”

Although the university planned to replace the damaged sections of sidewalk over the summer, Filardi said the paving crew had been delayed and was unable to complete the sidewalk repairs until this month.

“It’s really, ideally, a project that we would want to do in the summertime,” Filardi said. “But we couldn’t get the pavers in that timeframe.”

Paul Ashton, a sophomore film, television and media arts major, who has mobility challenges that limit his ability to use stairs, called the ramp closure “inconvenient.”

“It’s better for me in terms of my comfort and actual mobility to just use a ramp for the most part,” said Ashton, who lives in a first-floor accessibility suite in the Complex. “I usually prefer sticking to the sidewalks if I can, just because it’s more consistent for me walking.”

Ashton, who has a metal rod in his leg that he said gives him a slight limp, said he was not notified about the sidewalk construction beforehand and was forced to take the stairs while the ramp was closed.

“They knew, probably, that there are people in these accessibility suites,” Ashton said. “Obviously, they didn’t check with any of us.”

Filardi confirmed that the university’s grounds crew blocked off the ramp on Oct. 18, without first determining if any students in the Complex residence halls had accessibility issues. The incident was “a little bit of an oversight,” Filardi said.

Section 36.403 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design states that any alteration that may impact the accessibility of a facility “shall be made so as to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, the path of travel to the altered area and the restrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving the altered area, are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.”

The grounds crew placed signs around the construction site Oct. 19 that indicated the availability of “temporary handicap access through Perlroth.”

However, neither set of Perlroth’s doors were unlocked to establish an accessible route between the Complex residence halls and Bobcat Way, Filardi said. As a result, the entrances to the Sahlin, Founders and Bakke residence halls were only accessible via stairs for the majority of the week while the ramp underwent construction.

A construction crew posted a sign advising students with disabilities go through Perlroth to get to Complex. However, Perlroth is locked for students who do not live in the building. (Jack Muscatello)

Ashton said he assumed he had misunderstood the signs when he could not access Perlroth.

“Those doors were never open when I saw them,” Ashton said. “I figured there was just something I was missing.”

Filardi, who said he was not initially made aware of the timing of the decision to repave the damaged sidewalk, said the grounds crew had been eager to begin construction once the backordered paving crew arrived.

“It was just a little bit of a mix up,” Filardi said. “The pavers were delayed getting here and they just got overzealous to get (the sidewalk) done as quickly as possible.”

Once the accessibility issue was brought to his attention, Filardi said he advised the grounds crew that they should have verified if there were any students in the Complex residence halls who required access to the ramp prior to shuttering it.

Filardi said he did not intend for the grounds crew to place signs in front of the blocked off sidewalk suggesting that students could pass through Perlroth.

“Well, no, they can’t go through Perlroth because the doors are locked unless you live in Perlroth,” Filardi said. “I know that—I felt they knew that too.”

Ashton acknowledged that he was glad the university had made the sidewalk outside his building safer, in turn making it more accessible, but he pointed out the irony of the situation.

“They had to remove the accessibility to allow it to be accessible,” Ashton said.