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Virginia Tech Dedicates $400,000 to Improve Accessibility on Campus

May 04, 2019

Virginia Tech is dedicating $400,000 to improving accessibility on campus, the university announced last week.

The university will make a number of improvements around campus, including around the April 16 Memorial on the Drillfield.

“It’s important to make all of Virginia Tech accessible,” Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said. “This is a commitment we have in terms of accessibility. We can’t be an open campus if we don’t remove these barriers.”

Tech will add points of entry around the memorial, widening them. The university will also add a new accessible bench, relocate handicap parking spaces and install curb cuts for people approaching the memorial.

The memorial improvements will be made in the next two to four weeks, Owczarski said.

Tech’s master plan calls for the accessibility improvements at the memorial as well enlarging the plaza in the coming years. However, there are no immediate plans to enlarge the plaza, Owczarski said.

Over the course of the summer of 2019, the university will also improve the entrance to Patton Hall by adding handrails and ramps, add a fully accessible path from the veterinary school and animal hospital to its nearby parking lot, and provide an accessible pathway to a Goodwin Hall courtyard, which offers picnic tables.

Improved signage pointing toward accessible routes around campus will also be added to the projects and across Tech, Owczarski said.

“This is our effort to be mindful of accessibility issues that people are bringing to our attention,” he said.

Ashley Shew, a Tech professor of science and technology in society and co-founder of Tech’s Disability and Alliance Caucus, said she’s pleased with the moves. They’re a lot of the changes that she and the rest of the caucus have called for in the past.

“I’m happy about this,” Shew said. “A lot of these things are things we’ve pushed for.”

Shew said there’s more work to do, though. She said she hopes that Tech’s leaders will listen to the needs of disabled people as the university continues its planned expansion. She and the rest of the alliance have pushed Tech to add more signs for three years, she said.

Signage is incredibly important for disabled visitors to campus who don’t know how to get around hilly Blacksburg, Shew said.

Better planning in the past would’ve made these changes unnecessary and less expensive now. So better planning in the future for disabled people will be important, she said.

Shew, her colleagues and allies will continue to be vocal in pushing for awareness of the difficulties disabled people face around campus, both in the present and in the future.

“I’m happy that they’re listening to disabled people,” she said. “But there’s more work to do.”

Source: The Roanoke Times