Accessibility issue remains unresolved

Skyline College’s campus has to meet requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and is working to comply with all regulations. The campus’ accessibility is difficult now for all students, not just those with disabilities, due to the construction. Richard Inokuchi, Skyline’s supervisor of campus facilities, says that although it is a long process, the construction will help everyone, especially those with disabilities. “We can’t make it happen overnight, so it’s frustrating,” said Inokuchi. “It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A two-three year student can’t see it all the way through.” April of last year, San Mateo County Community College District hired a private company to go to all three campuses in the district to check if each campus is up to ADA regulations. Sally Swanson Architects and state ADA experts did the report that was never made public. The walk-through is not an annual thing, so no report will be made this year. There have been a few accessibility problems this semester. The elevator in building 7 was not in operation at the beginning of the semester. The elevator was working. However, it just had not been certified by the state, so Inokuchi was micro-managing it up until the day it was certified. Due to the lack of an elevator, classes had to be moved to accommodate students who could not use stairs, but Inokuchi says moving classes is not an inconvenience. Building 3, the gym, is now open and fully ADA accessible, except for the exterior elevator. The elevator is not working yet, so there is no access to the second level for disabled students, but once the elevator becomes running, which Inokuchi says will be soon, the floor will be available to everyone. The new exterior elevator is an improvement for the gym since the former gym had no elevators. According to a representative from Sally Swanson Architects, who chose to remain anonymous, ADA regulations are a little more lenient during construction because there is no way to make something better without limitations. Not all buildings have to be accessible as long as all the programs are. If a student can’t get to a certain class due to accessibility problems, then that class has to be moved. Also, during construction, a temporary access of travel needs to be constructed if former ways are obstructed. When Inokuchi, his team, and the contractors from Swinerton Construction plan to remodel a building, safety and accessibility are the number one factors. “Every time we touch a building, we make sure first it’s accessible and up to disabled standards,” Inokuchi said. “We don’t compromise when it comes to ADA.” There are now two swing gates in place by the field that were not there a year ago. The swing gates make it easier for disabled students to access the field, while blocking vehicles from entering. The ramp linking the upper and lower soccer fields has also been completed and is ADA compliant. There is now a path behind building 5 from Pacific Heights to the main campus that is in compliancy with ADA regulations, regardless of inconvenience. According to ADA, ramps can only have one inch of elevation for every 12 feet. There are plans to put in about 400 more parking spaces, which Inokuchi says there is a need for. The construction on building 7 will start next year, and buildings 5 and 6 will be completed in January. There will also be a new building built behind building 5 sometime in the future, that will be the cosmetology and wellness center building.With the passing of the bond, the district has over $400 million for all three campuses. The money has not yet been distributed to the campuses because all three are still campaigning for how much they should get. Inokuchi said that that money will help in continuing to remodel the school and get the whole campus compliant to ADA standards. Some parts of the campus that are still not in compliance are the walkway to building 8 and the bookstore, but there is going to be a new bookstore in building 6. The old bookstore will eventually be demolished. Inokuchi says the biggest challenge the campus faces in getting ADA compliant is the different levels. “We have the same challenges as CSM,” said Inokuchi. “We’re not just a flat campus. It’s challenging.” The ADA was instituted in 1990, so anything built after that time must be compliant. Skyline College was built in 1968, so much of the campus was not easily accessible for handicapped people in the first place. According to Sally Swanson, if a building was built before ADA, it does not have to be remodeled under California Law. Disabled students have made a difference when they’ve spoken out. A group of students in the early 80’s made complaints and the school put in electrical push buttons for all the doors. Construction will continue for a couple more years, accessibility problems for all go hand in hand. When the remodel is complete, the campus will look dramatically different and according to Inokuchi, will be easily accessible for disabled students.