The opening of Central Oregon Community College’s new Health Careers building will open new doors for wheelchair accessibility on campus. Currently, the only way for students in wheel chairs to access the upper campus without the use of a car is by riding the ADA shuttle.
Once the new buildings open in fall 2012, there will be wheelchair accessible routes from the Mazama area, all the way up to the Modoc area. The route will be connected by a series of paths, routes and elevators.
“It will give students more flexibility… and independence,” said Director of Campus Services Joe Viola.
Viola estimated that five people a day use the ADA shuttle, each of them getting picked up four to six times. While the new routes will make it possible for students to make changes to their schedule without the use of the shuttle, Viola doesn’t think that the opening of the paths will significantly decrease the use of the shuttle.
Increasing the connectivity of wheelchair routes on campus is not a new effort.
“Anytime we do construction we take the opportunity to increase accessibility,” said Viola.
The opening of the new buildings will complete a big part of the project, according to Gene Zinkgraf, the director of construction at COCC. It’s another part of a long process to bring the campus up to the code set by the American Disability Act. Over the last few years, pathways have been widened to make them more wheelchair accessible, ramps have been added and elevators have been installed in Mazama, Grandview and Pioneer. A wheelchair lift was installed in Pence that runs from the lower to middle floor, but according to Zinkgraf there was no cost efficient way to put in a full elevator. The elevators are a convenience for students in wheelchairs because they can easily access different levels of a building.
“Otherwise they’d have to drive down to a lower level of campus just to get to their next class in that same building,” explained Zinkgraf.
Even after the buildings open in the fall, some parts of the campus will remain inaccessible for wheelchairs without the assistance of the shuttle, according to Zinkgraf. These areas include the path between Boyle and Mazama, and from Ochoco to Grandview. Plans to improve connectivity in those areas,will proceed if funding is granted said Zinkgraf.
Construction will continue at COCC next year and according to Zinkgraf, as it does more steps will be taken to improve accessibility for students in wheelchairs.