Wheeler Hall should be accessible to all students

CAMPUS ISSUES: UC Berkeley has experience juggling numerous compliance laws, so why did it open Wheeler Hall without a working ADA-accessible elevator?

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Kelly Baird/Staff

It doesn’t count as “opening” Wheeler Hall if it’s only accessible to some students.

Wheeler Hall was out of commission for more than a year, as the campus renovated infrastructure including electrical systems and elevators. But now that it’s finally open, the only elevator currently in service is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a suitable elevator won’t be up and running until the end of September.

It is inevitable that some students with mobility disabilities will be affected — Wheeler Hall houses one of the largest lecture halls at UC Berkeley (and therefore some of the largest classes), as well as 10 percent of general assignment classrooms.

The campus has been supportive, offering assistance for students who need help reaching their classes in Wheeler Hall.

That is a step, but the problem at hand is systemic: People with disabilities often end up an afterthought. The campus should seek input from students or faculty with disabilities when making decisions like opening Wheeler Hall without an accessible elevator.

English professor Mitchell Breitwieser said over the summer that he thinks improvements to Wheeler Hall will make it more “comfortable and convenient.” It’s too bad it’s only convenient for some. Construction delays happen, but if there’s a segment of the population that is barred from accessing Wheeler Hall, don’t open it, especially without a plan.

The campus knows the drill. It has experience juggling numerous compliance laws. Throughout construction, the campus building official is expected to review projects such as Wheeler Hall’s renovation for ADA compliance. So it seems careless, then, that the sole elevator currently in service is not ADA compliant. And still, the handicapped stall in the girls bathroom does not have a working lock.

It’s ironic that Berkeley is the home of the disabilities rights movement, and yet in recent years has shirked basic services that provide support for community members with disabilities, such as career help. At this point, it is getting harder to believe that the campus is making an effort to ensure education is accessible to all UC Berkeley students. It will have to work hard to regain the trust of its students.

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  • thompson_richard

    The tiny elevator was built before ADA was enacted.

  • Nate Lever

    Would you really rather have the building not opened at all? A previous article stated that campus was working to relocate classes with disabled students to other buildings during the interim construction period. Has anyone become worse off than they would have been without Wheeler Hall unofficially reopening? I’d like to hear from the students affected that they are strictly worse off before the Daily Cal condemns the administration.

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