Accessibility ‘not specifically’ part of South Quad construction planning, university official says

Cat Murphy, Associate News Editor

Some Quinnipiac University students with disabilities are questioning the university administration’s commitment to disability inclusivity amid new concerns about the accessibility of the South Quad construction site.

Sal Filardi, vice president for facilities and capital planning, announced the extent of construction-related changes to the south side of the Mount Carmel Campus in an email to the Quinnipiac community on Jan. 20.

The ongoing South Quad construction closed the pathway connecting Bobcat Way to the College of Arts and Sciences buildings through Pine Grove. Alternatively, students, faculty and staff can travel behind The Commons residence hall, down Hilltop Road and up Pine Grove Road to access the CAS buildings from Bobcat Way, according to Filardi’s email.

The South Quad construction posed accessibility barriers that a university official said he “didn’t notice.” (Peyton McKenzie)

A subsection of the Code of Federal Regulations addressing nondiscrimination on the basis of disability pertains to the accessibility standards applicable to new construction and alterations.

The path of travel to areas of primary function must remain “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs,” during alterations such as reconstruction that may impact the accessibility, per 28 CFR § 36.403.

However, an investigation conducted by the Chronicle indicated that a one-inch speed bump extends into the pedestrian pathway on Hilltop Road.

“It’s not a very big obstacle, but it could still be considered an obstacle,” Filardi told the Chronicle on Jan. 27.

Although Filardi said at the time that university officials were planning to remove the protruding section of the speed bump from the pedestrian pathway “within the next few days,” the speed bump has yet to be altered as of Feb. 6.

The detour path to the CAS buildings also includes a section of sidewalk without an accessible exit for individuals who use mobility aids such as wheelchairs.

Although the sidewalk features two curb ramp entrances, the path ends in an approximately eight-and-a-half-inch descent to the pedestrian pathway painted along Hilltop Road.

Not specifically was accessibility part of the process because it was just rerouting on existing campus sidewalks and pathways.

— Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi

Filardi said that university officials “didn’t notice” the lack of a curb ramp and were “moving to correct that as quickly as possible.” 

However, Filardi said that adding a curb ramp to that section of sidewalk may not be feasible. University officials would instead look to extend the painted pedestrian pathway and add signage labeling the inaccessible sidewalk, Filardi said.

“I don’t think there’s anything else that we can do to make the sidewalks any more accessible,” Filardi added. “I think they’re relatively accessible now.”

Although the pedestrian pathway was repainted on Feb. 3, to encompass the length of the sidewalk, signage identifying the sidewalk has not yet been added.

Kate Palumbo, director of the Office of Student Accessibility, said university officials are implementing individualized accommodations as well as exploring long-term solutions that are “more sustainable throughout the duration of the construction.”

The construction of a temporary shuttle stop in front of the CAS buildings is among the options being considered, said Tony Reyes, chief of public safety.

“There’s a lot of consideration on whether or not we can do that, but it is a viable option adding a stop there,” Reyes said. “Definitely in the long term, it’s something we should consider.”

However, university administrators did not explicitly consider the accessibility of the pedestrian pathway during the construction planning process, Filardi said.

“Not specifically was accessibility part of the process because it was just rerouting on existing campus sidewalks and pathways,” Filardi said. “It’s not like we’ve created something new that students are walking through for the first time.”

Reyes said that university officials expected students with concerns about the accessibility of the construction-related changes to contact the Office of Student Accessibility.

“Communication went out to the entire community prior to the start of the semester with an explanation about the construction,” Reyes said. “I would imagine that would prompt a student that has any special request to call our respective offices, if that’s going to present a challenge for them.”

However, university officials also chose not to publicize the specifics of the detour route until just before the start of the spring semester, Filardi said.

“​​We purposely put it out shortly before everybody was coming back,” Filardi said. “We wanted to make sure it didn’t get lost in the email over break.”

Several students with disabilities voiced concerns about the accessibility challenges posed by the detour.

Cailinn Stockman, a senior sociology major, expressed anxiety about the inaccessibility of the detour path.

“I have a lot of muscle tightness and muscle weakness, which makes it hard to basically walk and move, so I do use a scooter to navigate campus,” Stockman, who has cerebral palsy, said. “It was a little bit scary having to navigate (the construction) with the chair because of the uneven surfaces and speed bump.”

Paul Ashton, a sophomore film, television and media arts major with a mobility disability, criticized the university’s lack of consideration for students with disabilities.

“I knew about the route, but I didn’t think it would be that egregious,” Ashton said. “It feels like they prioritize their own construction and their own future plans over the students that are actually there now.”