Building and sidewalk renovations help the disabled

Brenda Tavakoli

STAFF WRITER

The sidewalks near Agnes Arnold Hall are being made more accessible to those who use wheelchairs to navigate the University of Houston campus, according to physical plant sources. This remodeling is part of the final wave of repairs on AH and its surrounding area this semester.

Caroline Gergely, director of the Center for Students with DisAbilities, says the repairs are needed and appreciated. "They haven't told us much about it, but anything they do to make it more accessible is a good thing."

She added that plans for the sidewalk renovations have "been on the books for awhile." Gergely said the motivation for the repairs is a combination of students making their needs known and university compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The university has made a commitment to be in compliance with the ADA, and they have made plans to (do so) as money becomes more available, to make the buildings more accessible," she said.

"Like any campus, there is so much to be done but not enough funds. They are making a good faith effort to do what they can with the funds available," Gergely said.

Philip Skeete, junior business major, said of the sidewalk renovations, "That's good. I think they should make the whole university accessible to people with handicaps."

Anita McDaniel, a school of communication lecturer who travels around campus via wheelchair, said, "I never thought that they (the sidewalks near AH) were inaccessible. I've been around the campus before I was in a wheelchair, and now I'm in a wheelchair. I don't remember taking notice before."

She said, however, that "the construction outside (AH) has been a pain." She finds the building "a lot more accessible since they fixed it. It still has a few problems."

The repairs on the building are in their "last wave," said Tom Wray, director of the UH physical plant. Wray said that the other repairs include "finishing the auditorium and work on the masonry on the exterior of the building."

Wray anticipated that the repairs on the auditorium "should be finished probably this week." Yet more investigative work must be done on the masonry, he said. This will include "looking at the brick and what's making it crack."

Wray said, despite renovations, that the building is "perfectly safe to be in."

Students, faculty and staff who spend any amount of time in AH may be relieved to discover the repairs are nearing completion. This past fall semester, students and faculty complained about erratic, extreme temperatures in certain rooms.

Other complaints centered on exposed wires, dust and noise pollution. Wray said, "When we were doing some of the masonry, we had to move (the repairs) to nights because of the noise."

Some students expressed a continuing dissatisfaction with the construction process at AH. Senior accounting major Ryan C. Hadley, Sr., said, "It sucks. And it's too loud with the construction."

Repairs began in May 1997, when all occupants of AH were moved to the off-campus Schulmberger facilities so that workers could remove asbestos from the thirty-year-old building. The renovations were supposed to be completed by the fall of 1997, but are still in progress.

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