Webster student expresses concern regarding ADA accessibility during Sverdrup renovations


Dave James is not afraid to show his scar, a deep scar stretching from his hip to his knee cap. A year and a half ago, James was in an accident that nearly took his life, crushed his leg and left him in a wheelchair for a little over a year. James’ surgeons were able to reconstruct his leg through two surgeries using dozens of screws and a steel plate.

Now on crutches, James, a Webster photography major, feels his trek to class has become more difficult due to construction throughout Sverdrup Hall.

“There is no short or easy path for me every way I go,” James said. “I have to walk ridiculous distances. If I park [in the handicap parking], I still have to cross the entire length of the building just to get in.”

James feels a better approach to the construction would have been to do one section at a time.

“I think taking out the entire middle of the building all at once was not smart,” James said. “It is not safe. It would have been better if they started during summer break because then they would have been months in and had time to figure this stuff out.”

James added if the construction began during the summer, the school could have adjusted classrooms based on those with accessibility needs. He said it would avoid construction areas and have easier access to the handicap parking area.

Dean of School of Communications Eric Rothenbuhler said ensuring Americans with Disability Act (ADA) accessibility was a priority throughout the planning process.

“There are two ADA entrances, one for each half of the building,” Rothenbuhler said. “Each of them connects the power assisted door on the Big Bend side of the lobby elevator, through a plywood tunnel constructed by the contractors for the purpose of providing ADA access.”

Rothenbuhler said ADA accessibility was a topic discussed at every planning meeting he attended throughout that phase of the project.

Additionally, noise throughout the building is another issue brought to the attention of the School of Communications (SOC). During the demolition process, the SOC can expect high levels of noise.

Chair of the Communications and Journalism Department Gary Ford said during the demolition period, classes in room 210 and 239 have been provided alternative room space. If the space is not available, these classes were given permission to dismiss class as necessary and provide the appropriate work to make up for missed class time.

Ford reported one class from the Communications and Journalism Department was permanently relocated in order to avoid noise from the West Lobby.

Rothenbuhler said this process is not ideal, but the end result is what the SOC is pushing toward.

“We are remodeling our house while we are living in it,” Rothenbuhler said. “The end result, though, will be a wonderful new, state-of-the-art teaching facility, dedicated to student success a huge improvement over what we have now.”

Renovation plan

The first phase focuses on the first floor, including the classrooms and the two lobby areas.

The formal planning process began in Fall 2012 with an extensive evaluation of the building and the curriculum. Rothenbuhler said this meant assessing the needs of each classroom as well as the needs of the facility. After this assessment, the hired architecture firm V Three Studios LLC designed a renovation based on the needs of the SOC and contributions from the Webster community.

Rothenbuhler said the design approach was to create big, open spaces with glass used as much as possible. He said this

idea was to showcase the work of the students and to encourage collaboration.

In one shared multi-media space, there will be a classroom, TV studio, a radio studio and a one button recording station with movable furniture to pack-up and take on the go, if needed. The second area will be a collaborative area between The Ampersand, The Journal and the Galaxy Radio.

In addition, the area will have a post-production lab, a screening room for video game testing and viewing rough cuts, a computer lab and a general purpose classroom.

“We want the work of communication and the work of media production visible to the world,” Rothenbuhler said. “We get the most creative thinking where people with different backgrounds, different expertise and different interests bump into each other and get curious about each other’s work.”

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