‘Fake’ Braille found in UC Berkeley building 5 months after opening

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Naira Khalid/Staff

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Since the opening of Connie & Kevin Chou Hall at the Haas School of Business at the start of the fall 2017 semester, visually impaired students have had to navigate large swaths of the building without the help of Braille on classroom and study room placards.

A video emerged on social media Saturday demonstrating that the Braille on a placard outside a Haas classroom was flat and artificial. Posted by campus junior Twee Mac to the popular Facebook group UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens, the video has since garnered significant attention, and Mac says many have voiced their frustration over the situation.

Although Mac said she thought the signs with “fake” Braille were temporary, she said it was “messed up” that they hadn’t been replaced since the building’s opening in August.

“(Failing to replace the placards is) saying that people are too lazy or cheap to accommodate disabled students,” Mac said.

Chou Hall is the newest building at Haas, and, similar to the original buildings in the college, was entirely funded by alumni and friends. Although exit and restroom signs include raised Braille, signs outside classrooms and study rooms currently do not.

State and federal safety codes require permanent placards by building exits and restrooms, whereas placards corresponding to classrooms and study rooms can initially serve as placeholders, according to Greta Kim, senior projects manager at Propp + Guerin, the graphic design company that constructed the placards in Chou Hall.

Signage for rooms aside from exits and restrooms are not required by the safety code but have already been made with raised Braille and await installation in mid-January, according to Haas senior assistant dean Courtney Chandler.

The permanent placards including raised Braille will be installed following the building’s transfer to the UC Board of Regents, Chandler added.

Badier Velji, vice president of diversity for the Evening and Weekend MBA Program, said he thinks that this discrepancy may have been a lapse in “quality control,” given pressures to open Chou Hall by the beginning of the semester.

“I’m hoping it was an oversight in the rush to finish Chou Hall,” Velji said in an email. “But even so, it should not have been done, as it negatively impacts the students who need that functionality.”

It’s not just at Chou Hall. Many buildings on campus don’t provide Braille on placards outside classrooms, said Georgina Kleege, campus English lecturer and president of the Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights.

When asked for comment, Disabled Students Program Director Karen Nielson said she had not heard of the inadequate Braille in Chou Hall.

According to Kleege, there was an incident earlier in the semester at Wheeler Hall, following its reopening, in which new signs were installed by doors with Braille that was flatter than standard Braille. She added that the signs have since been replaced and were intentionally temporary but said the lack of communication was frustrating.

“The faculty coalition and student groups on campus have been working the last of couple of years to influence the administration to move beyond simple compliance with the law and to recognize that the point of access is not only be nice to disabled people, but also recognize that disabled people have something to offer,” Kleege said.

Contact Naira Khalid at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @nairakhalid.