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

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.

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  • Woolsey

    Couldn’t you fix this immediately by applying 1/2 in diameter sticky-back Velcro patches as raised dots to the flat placards in the appropriate form?

  • lspanker

    So what, it’s not like any blind student can see the difference

  • Greta Kim

    The article opens “visually impaired students have had to navigate large swaths of the building without the help of Braille on classroom and study room placards.”

    The angle of the article makes UC Berkeley Haas seem like they’re unconcerned about this population. Quite the opposite. UC designed a well-lit, accessible building for engaged learning. If you visit on a typical day at Chou Hall, you will see groups of students working in the areas and furniture provided, lively post-lecture discussions in the public spaces.

    Some of the problem is that the temporary signs look so close to the actuals that some might have been confused to thinking UC was attempting to “pull the wool” over in the situation. UC requested the quality versions be installed as temporaries instead of pieces of 8.5” x 11 sheets of paper taped to walls for better readability and so that ALL could easily find their destinations.

    Take a minute to see the forest, similar to the one outside of the building.

    • Bob Mynuts

      “UC designed a well-lit, accessible building for engaged learning.”

      What does it matter, how well lit it is to the blind people? Really??

      • That Guy

        She did not say “blind” she said “visually impaired”. Many people with impairment appreciate high light levels.

  • Haas School of Bus.

    As a clarification, Chou Hall is fully ADA compliant and has been since it opened for temporary occupancy. Haas is committed to making the building as accessible as possible for all members of the community. The nonprofit that’s developing the building is still wrapping up final construction details. The temporary signs on the classrooms will soon be replaced with the permanent signage recognizing the donors. These include stainless steel braille panels on each classroom.

    • Reine

      It is not fully compliant without readable braille.

  • rychastings

    these litigious ada trolls driving up costs of doing business for everyone…

    • BerCaley

      Yawn. No lawsuits have been filed. If you’d read the article, you’d know.

      • rychastings

        they always are threatening to file frivilous lawsuits

  • jeyhovah

    Berkeley was the epicenter of creating inclusive environments where all could come to be educated. Not putting up these placards is both shameful and a stain on the Berkeley image. What is this university becoming?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Read the article. The signs are scheduled to be installed in mid-January.

  • Disqusted

    -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.

    If the braille signage is ready now, put it up now!

    If you need to use temporary “fake” brailed signage, just print paper real braille signage for temporary use instead.


    • rychastings

      geez so angry, why do you think you are so entitled to access the taxpayer purse?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      My guess is that there are other things the limited pool of available labor is doing between now and then.

      Like many campus departments, PPCS has been downsized over the past decade or so. Welcome to the new, “value-engineered” UC Berkeley.

      • Reine

        Shame on you.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          For what? For pointing out that PPCS is understaffed and that putting Braille signs on classrooms (which is not a legal requirement) isn’t their first priority?