Skyline disabled student access not up to code

Ramp to Building 5 is not compliant with ADA regulations, although it was built in 2004. ()

Ramp to Building 5 is not compliant with ADA regulations, although it was built in 2004. ()

In late April, a study was done at Skyline to review the campus’s compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

When Skyline College was built in 1968, the ADA was not yet in existence. The law was instituted in 1990 and includes rules and regulations for all campus buildings to be accessible to disabled people.

Skyline’s campus is not completely up to full ADA compliance. After construction, some parts of the campus will be updated to meet the regulations. However, according to Supervisor of Campus Facilities Richard Inokuchi, some of it will stay the way it is, not in compliance with ADA requirements.

“It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating to me,” said Linda Van Sciver, head of the Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) here at Skyline.

Sally Swanson Architects, ADA state experts, did a district-wide walkthrough. They surveyed the SMCCCD’s three campuses to look at all issues. Sally Swanson Architects’ expertise is in ADA compliance. When a school or company needs to update their ADA regulations, Sally Swanson Architects is brought in to do the survey. The district’s Capitol Improvement Program Director Karen Freeman said that Sally Swanson Architects was brought in to identify issues that have been corrected over time and new issues that have arisen, to make sure these issues are brought up to code.

Sally Swanson does not make public any information they uncover.

“We are a private entity, we do not give out any information we have,” said Jürgen Dostert, accessibility specialist for Sally Swanson. “That is up to your school to do.”

There are several copies of Sally Swanson’s study on campus, and Inokuchi said they are available for anyone on campus to take a look. Vice President of Student Services Judith Redwine and Swinerton Construction’s Doug Henry and Zak Conway are the people in charge of the study.

Skyline has a quarterly campus-wide meeting to review DSPS issues. Teachers, faculty members and Swinerton staff meet to discuss the campus’s disabled students’ issues. Inokuchi, Van Sciver and Henry are just a few of the staff members that meet.

“Construction has its drawbacks,” Van Sciver said. “It affects everyone, even people who don’t need to worry about accessibility. The hope is with new buildings, it will be more accessible.”

Inokuchi says when designing buildings and doing remodels there is always one issue that remains at the top of the priority list.

“The number one issue is handicap, it’s always number one, tied with safety,” Inokuchi said. “We try to make the campus safe. In doing so, sometimes it can be an inconvenience. I’d rather it be safe and be an inconvenience to the staff and students. We try to please all parties the best we can.”

The construction caused the need for a ramp to be put in from building 5 to the nearby parking lot. However, the slope of the ramp is not in compliance with ADA regulations that say it needs to be no steeper than 1 inch of elevation for every 12 horizontal feet. Inokuchi said he and other construction members knew that it was not in compliance, but it was still built.

Because, according to the ADA, the ramp is not safe for disabled students, the plan was to put up a sign on the building above the ramp informing the public. The sign was discussed at the March 10 meeting of the DSPS issue review. It states in the meeting minutes, “We will post signage at the stalls that accessible pathways to building 5 do not exist at this location along with a map to other stalls on campus that can be used for access.” As of press time, no such signage existed.

Also inaccessible due to construction is the baseball field. At press time, there was no direct wheelchair access to the baseball field. The walkway from the parking lot across the road from the baseball field is normally blocked off with a chain and tape. Inokuchi said a swing gate will be installed to make the baseball field accessible to pedestrians and the disabled, but not cars. The swing gate will be done in the summer, according to Inokuchi. A back way onto the field is also closed off due to construction.

Building 8 is also going to be remodeled. The walkway up to building 8 is currently not in ADA compliance. It winds several curves and is also steeper than the regulations allow. Since the building was built before 1990, it has not been considered illegal for the walkway be out of date. After the remodel, to be in regulation, the walkway must be in compliance.

Disabled accessibility is not a new problem to the campus, according to Van Sciver. She said the majority of what she does is educate the administration and faculty; the students have the real power, and have used that power in the past.

“I started in 1982,” she said. “In 1983, without telling me, the students demanded to see the president because they couldn’t get into any buildings. None of the buildings had electrical push buttons (door openers). The students called the newspapers and a little while later, all the buildings had electrical push buttons.”

Van Sciver also said that if a students want to complain about accessibility, they are to go to the Office for Civil Rights and make a formal complaint.

“At the beginning of the semester I heard at least one to two complaints a week,” Van Sciver said. “I don’t hear as many now. What I try to do, I let students know we will be in construction for several years. And let students in wheelchairs know it may not be the best time to come to Skyline.”

Athletic Director Andreas Wolf, says he makes sure that when designing the athletic fields and buildings, disabled accessibility is looked at first.

“Everything we do has to be DSA (Division of State Architects) compliant,” Wolf said. “In everything we do, the priority is for disabled students. That’s at the forefront of our planning all projects.”

“I think the school is committed to having the least amount of problems during construction that they can,” Van Sciver said. “The construction people were kind enough to (install) a bench down at the RediWheels pick-up spot, with an overhang so no one gets wet.”

There was also a RediWheels bus pick-up spot built at the Pacific Heights building for the disabled students that take adaptive PE classes to have an easier time getting to their classes, but the restrooms at the Pacific Heights annex are another accessibility problem. The restrooms are not compliant with ADA regulations, but there are portable toilets outside for disabled students to use. According to Van Sciver, it can be difficult for those students to get to those outdoor bathrooms because a lot of them walk slow or have trouble walking. The bathrooms at Pacific Heights will never be fixed, according to both Wolf and Inokuchi, even after the remodel of the building. There will be outdoor restrooms for disabled students to use.

“Most of it is a money issue,” Inokuchi said. “It’s always a money issue.”

Inokuchi will be looking at the total number of disabled parking spaces and putting in more spaces for the disabled if necessary.

Generally speaking, the rule for most colleges is that eight to 10 percent of the population is disabled. Bob Varner, a photographer for The Skyline View and a member of the disabled population at Skyline, has an open mind but strong opinions on the accessibility.

“I’m more able than a lot of other people,” Varner said. “But in a wheelchair it’s very, very hard.”

Varner pointed out there are really only two main entrances that a student in a wheelchair can use, mentioning the entrance to building 8 by the cosmetology department and the entrance to the first floor of building two as the only truly accessible entrances.

When it comes to how much attention the school pays to disabled issues, Varner says there could be more.

“It doesn’t seem like they’ve addressed the issue completely,” Varner said. “Another problem
is that they’ve neglected a lot of times is the electric door openers; they forget to turn them on.”

After the students fought hard for a way to get into the buildings 22 years ago, the problem is still an issue.

“People aren’t aware,” Varner said. “[Non-disabled students] do take it for granted. They’re not in the same situation, so they take it for granted.”

Varner also says that he would definitely speak up with complaints, if he needed to.

“If it was to the point where I felt action really had to be taken, I would not be hesitant,” Varner said.

The Sally Swanson study is being sent to the DSA in early May. Parts of campus that are not in compliance can only be fixed if a student makes a formal complaint to the OCR, otherwise there is no penalty.