Facilities department updating historical buildings through renovations

A few historical building on campus no longer follow Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Photo courtesy of Joshua McSwain

By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer

While there are a few historical buildings on campus that are not up to current Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards, Patrick Carley, associate vice president for facilities and operations, said Baylor as a university is ADA compliant. Carley said the ADA does not require buildings built before the ADA came into existence to be up to current code, but the facilities department is working to renovate these buildings to make them ADA compliant.

Over the years, many students have expressed concerns with accessibility on campus. Over 40 years ago, an article in the Baylor Line magazine highlighted many of the accessibility issues students faced on campus, and last semester, a student expressed frustration in the form of a TikTok. In a previous Lariat article, she said she felt Baylor was ignoring the issue.

Carley said addressing issues of accessibility and ensuring buildings are up to current ADA standards is very important to Baylor.

“As a caring, Christian community, we always want to do more,” Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said. “We’re continually getting feedback as we work to enhance the experience of students, faculty, staff, visitors and other stakeholders who visit our campus and who may require special accommodations.”

As a disabled veteran, Carley said he has a personal affinity for addressing these issues and improving accessibility on campus.

Carley said the upcoming renovation of Collins Residence Hall is the next big renovation project. Carley said when buildings are renovated, facilities looks to both address accessibility concerns and upgrade the facilities of the building.

“This summer, that’s the major construction project,” Carley said. “That’s going to be not only addressing the ADA compliance issues in Collins, but it’s going to do a complete renovation on the inside of the utility systems, the aesthetics, room upgrades, restrooms. Some of the other projects that we have recently completed over the past few years includes Memorial Hall, Waco Hall, McCrary Music Hall and Tidwell Building. A total renovation of the building was provided for accessibility needs there.”

Whenever the facilities department is looking to make any renovations or have any construction project done on a building, it takes a look at any shortfalls that need to be addressed, such as adding more ramps. Carley said the facilities department works with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to make sure the building projects are in compliance with the ADA and Texas Accessibility Standards.

Carley said the facilities department relies on elevator specialist companies to repair campus elevators. When an elevator breaks down, he said facilities gets on it right away and contacts the repair company, but sometimes the repair companies are already fully booked or have to order the necessary parts to fix the elevator, which is why elevator repairs are sometimes delayed.

Carley said facilities wants to address the needs of students, faculty and staff and works with the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation (OALA), the Office of Equity and Civil Rights, the Title IX Office and student government in order to do so. He said he encourages any students to reach out to OALA if they have any concerns or to reach out to the facilities department if their complaint is a facilities-based issue.

Katy freshman Brenna Colihan, director of accessibility in student government, said the resources offered by OALA span a wide range of accommodations for different disabilities. She said students can get physical accommodations that allow them better access to campus, accommodations for developmental and learning disabilities and even accommodations for severe allergies that may prevent a student from eating at a dining hall.

As the director of accessibility is a new position, Colihan said she is still trying to figure out her exact role on campus and what her office can do. She said she has been working with OALA to figure out how she can come in to help.

Colihan has also been working with Campus Living and Learning (CL&L) to make the process of getting housing accommodations easier to understand, as well as getting to know more people with disabilities.

“A lot of what I’ve been doing is trying to personally get to know more people with different kinds of disabilities so that I can kind of better understand what everybody else is going through,” Colihan said. “I have done that by being very open. I’m an open book. If anyone has a question, I’ll answer it.”

After reading about the bill to create the director of accessibility position, Colihan said she immediately emailed the student body president. Having a disability herself, Colihan said this was a topic she was very passionate about and wanted to be involved with in any way she could.

Colihan said she hopes to be in this position for the rest of her time at Baylor. Some of her goals include increasing education and awareness about different disabilities and making necessary changes on campus.

“I wanted to help be that path to bringing accessibility and disability to the forefront of people’s minds,” Colihan said. “People need to think about it more when we talk about diversity. Diversity includes disability, and we need to know that disability isn’t a bad word. Create things like more accessibility training to bring more awareness and help create an environment where people really understand disability and want to take the time to help.”