QU only addresses accessibility when it has to. Here’s how.

Cat Murphy, Associate News Editor

Quinnipiac University officials appear to have replaced several individual Braille signs in Tator Hall to meet the legal standard of accessibility without updating every sign in the building, an investigation conducted by the Chronicle revealed.

Braille is “a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers,” according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Tactile signage often features Braille to make “permanent rooms and spaces” within public accommodations identifiable and accessible to individuals who are blind or who have low vision, per the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design.

Section 703.4.1 of the 2010 ADA standards stipulates that the baseline of the highest tactile character on Braille signage must be mounted a maximum of 60 inches from the ground.

The Chronicle investigation in September 2022 identified at least 58 tactile signs in Tator Hall that do not comply with the 2010 mounting height standards.

However, the 2010 standards include a “safe harbor” provision under which elements constructed or altered prior to March 15, 2012, in compliance with the 1991 standards “are not required to be modified,” according to section 36.304 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The signs in Tator Hall are compliant with the applicable height specifications outlined in the 1991 regulations, which required tactile signage to be centered 60 inches from the ground. Thus, university officials are not legally obligated to relocate the signs to the height standards specified in the 2010 requirements.

Sal Filardi, vice president for facilities and capital planning, confirmed in October 2022 that the university would not replace the signs because “they were installed at a time where that’s what the code was.”

“There are no students on any of our campuses that require Braille,” Filardi said at the time. “There’s technically no need for the signs right now.”

However, the safe harbor provision is not applicable to elements that have undergone alterations since March 15, 2012, per 28 CFR 36.406.

The original tactile signage identifying rooms TH-105, TH-107, TH-112, TH-119, TH-128, TH-217, TH-218, TH-226, TH-229 and TH-324 has been replaced since 2012, according to the Chronicle’s investigation.

All but one of the updated signs comply with the 2010 ADA height standards. The remaining sign, located outside room TH-112, has been updated but is mounted above the maximum height requirement established in 2010.

The Chronicle’s investigation indicated that at least three-quarters of the updated signs in Tator Hall were replaced amid renovations.

The signage identifying two engineering classrooms, TH-105 and TH-107, and a faculty office space, TH-119, was replaced sometime after the university launched its engineering program in the fall of 2012.

Filardi told the Chronicle in 2015 that the university had previously rededicated several spaces on the first floor of Tator Hall to accommodate the new engineering department.

“There’s a couple classrooms of engineering along the wall,” Filardi said at the time. “We also put a suite in there for the faculty.”

Filardi confirmed that his description corresponded to rooms TH-105, TH-107 and TH-119, all of which have received updated tactile signage compliant with the 2010 ADA standards since 2012.

The Chronicle’s investigation also linked four of the updated signs to renovations undertaken in Tator Hall between 2017 and 2019.

Two lecture classrooms in Tator Hall were renovated in approximately 2017 to create a large biology lab in TH-217 and a lab preparatory space in TH-218, a professor with knowledge of the construction told the Chronicle. Filardi confirmed that signage identifying rooms TH-217 and TH-218 was updated at this time.

The town of Hamden issued Quinnipiac a building permit on May 30, 2019, to renovate several classrooms in Buckman Center and Tator Hall, including rooms TH-229 and TH-324. Filardi confirmed that the signs located outside classrooms TH-229 and TH-324 were replaced amid the 2019 renovations.

The tactile sign identifying room TH-226, an electrical closet located outside room TH-229, has also been replaced with a sign matching those outside rooms TH-229 and TH-324. Filardi told the Chronicle that the sign identifying room TH-226 was likely replaced as part of the 2019 renovations.

Filardi confirmed that various renovations prompted university officials to update individual tactile signs in Tator Hall but repeatedly denied that the signs were replaced specifically to comply with ADA standards pertaining to alterations.

“It’s not about legally,” Filardi said. “It’s about the appropriate use of resources.”

Rather, Filardi said university officials opted to replace the signs in Tator Hall as part of a larger initiative to standardize the signage on Quinnipiac’s campuses.

“It’s more of a branding thing than it’s been a code-driven thing,” Filardi said. “Eventually, all the signs will be changed.”

However, Filardi also said university officials are not planning to replace the original signage in Tator Hall because the current signs meet the “needs of the campus.”

“It’s just not common that you just go and change everything because you can,” Filardi said. “We’re not changing them out until we need to.”

Filardi declined to elaborate on why university officials would not replace the signage in Tator Hall for accessibility purposes.

“I don’t know that I could really answer that,” Filardi said.