Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and access to the handicapped: a case study
The problem of the physically handicapped and architectural barriers has been a growing international, national, and University concern. Handicapped citizens are frequently "walled out" of public buildings because of thoughtlessness of the design. The handicapped have the right of access to public buildings. Because Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is a public university, in fact and tradition, it has a responsibility to assure the accessibility of the campus to all who wish to use it. The first step in remedying the access problem at the university level would be to inventory the architectural barriers in the campus buildings and on the University site and access the current status of other factors effecting access at the University.
The purpose of this study was to examine the problem of access and the handicapped at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University through these four research questions:
What was the current status of the problem of architectural barriers within the facilities of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University?
What was the extent of the activity, either proposed or in progress, for relieving the existing architectural barriers within Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University?
What was the extent of activity designed to prevent architectural barriers in future construction of University facilities?
What were the activities or programs which would be appropriate to provide for the removal of architectural barriers within current and future facilities of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University?
The study developed the data to answer these questions through three research methods. First, an architectural survey form was developed from existing forms, architectural specifications, and related literature. This survey form was used to inventory the architectural barriers in fifty-one academic and administrative buildings on the University's main campus.
The second method involved contacting handicapped students and staff in order to obtain their viewpoint concerning problems associated with access at the University. The contact was made by a mailed questionnaire and through personal interviews.
The third method involved interviewing various members of the University administrative staff to determine the experience and perceptions of administrative staff concerning problems of access. Secondary purposes of these interviews were to determine if funds would be available to support the process of making the University accessible.
It was found that the University was not generally accessible to handicapped persons. No building on the campus complied with current National or state access standards. No local organization or person had the responsibility to assure a barrier-free campus. Funds for removing campus barriers were non-existent and few discretionary funds could be used for this purpose. The single activity directed toward removal of architectural barriers on the campus was the development of an Ad Hoc Committee of the University Faculty Senate to study the problem.
The study concluded with several recommendations in the areas of policy and architectural and site alterations. The primary implication for further research was directed toward defining the characteristics of Virginia's and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's handicapped population and to use this data to determine wny the University's handicapped population was so low.