[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the AACC 21st Century Center.]
Visiting a new college campus can be bewildering. Even with appropriate signage it isn’t necessarily easy to navigate to parking, the enrollment office, classrooms, restrooms and other vital services. For people with disabilities or mobility issues, things can be a lot tougher.
Adding to the challenge is that since voters approved the 2008 bond measure, Portland Community College (PCC) has seen extensive construction or renovations at all four campuses and most of its centers, bringing with it temporary detours, closures and office moves.
But a collective of staff from Disability Services, Facilities Management Services (FMS) and the Web Team is creating innovative changes that have made PCC a national leader in accessibility. And like so many advances these days, the changes are digitally based.
Federal law requires the college to ensure access to its programs. But according to Kaela Parks, PCC’s director of Disability Services, there are a variety of ways to achieve that. Many schools’ websites offer static maps that show the location of accessible building features such as automatic door openers, elevators, and accessible restrooms and water fountains, she said. However, individuals who rely on assistive technology often experience barriers that require them to request an alternate format, such as tactile graphics or text-based descriptions.
“We’re trying to honor the spirit of the legal imperative to ensure access to programs as a whole by reducing the need to trigger those accommodation-related requests,” Parks said. “We do this by making sure it’s more accessible on the front end.”
Maps disclose accessible features
The solution, which is still a work in progress, lays in creating user-friendly maps of floor plans that show the accessible building features and are easily updated.