University of Rochester Addresses Mobility Issues With Outstanding Designs
by Paul Spaulding, ASLA

The University of Rochester in Rochester, New York faced an issue that could have been a detriment, and instead, presented an opportunity. A student with mobility issues sued the University. As part of the 2006 settlement of the case, the University agreed to examine and address key circulation routes for accessibility by disabled visitors and students. This piece examines some of the solutions that were developed in those areas found to be nonconforming that took into account the context and the overall aesthetic of the campus.

The first of the major improvements was the removal of stairs between Lattimore Hall and Strong Auditorium. A hillside between the two buildings presented a significant challenge given the substantial vertical climb.

Path and stair constructed in the late 1920's when the River Campus of the University of Rochester was built. This popular route from nearby residence halls was inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair. The University developed a solution to provide access to all along this route. Image courtesy Paul Spaulding.

While the University’s Planning and Project Management staff explored more rectilinear switchback ramps, we liked the elegances of the serpentine ramp that integrated a stair through the center axis. We also took the opportunity to develop a hosta and cherry collection around this ramp to expand the University of Rochester Arboretum. In place several years now, the ramp is very successful, both for disabled individuals and for cyclists who use the ramp to travel between quads without dismounting and carrying their bikes.

Reconstructed path and integrated accessible ramp. This area, in furthering the development of the campus as an arboretum, was also designed as a hosta, iris, and cherry collection. Paul Spaulding completed the conceptual design in the University's office of Planning and Project Management. The formal design was prepared by Bergmann Associates, Mark Johns, ASLA, and Eric Shaw, ASLA. Image courtesy Paul Spaulding.

Our next improvement was to construct a ramp adjacent the main undergraduate library on the primary pedestrian route between student residences and classroom buildings.

Major pedestrian route from residence halls to the central quadrangle of campus that was inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair. This is the start of construction to install an accessible ramp and plaza. Image courtesy Paul Spaulding.

Fashioned to mimic the basement level elevation of Rush Rhees Library, this ramp is only part of a plaza improvement that includes a snow melt system and landscaping, and creates a popular gathering space on campus. The ramp itself is free-standing and could in the future be removed without damaging the façade of the library.

The completed ramp and plaza. Paul Spaulding completed the conceptual design in the University's office of Planning and Project Management. The formal design was prepared by Bergmann Associates, Mark Johns, ASLA, and Eric Shaw, ASLA. Image courtesy Paul Spaulding.

The most recent improvement was to regrade a section of sidewalk in the heart of campus.

A sidewalk between residential, academic, and athletic facilities that was not in compliance with ADA slope limitations. Image courtesy Paul Spaulding.

Adjusting the pitch and adding handrails allows for a completely accessible connection from Rush Rhees Library to athletic facilities and to the Genesee River at the edge of campus. Initially, there were concerns that the railings would look out of place in the open, but the black color makes them almost invisible.

The regraded sidewalk/ramp with landings and handrails. Both the conceptual design and formal design were prepared by Bergmann Associates, Mark Johns, ASLA, and Eric Shaw, ASLA. Photo courtesy Paul Spaulding.

The settlement issues of the lawsuit are nearly all addressed, and the beauty of these features and the convenience they provide have made such modifications accepted and encouraged at other locations on campus.

Paul Spaulding, ASLA, is Project Manager in University Facilities and Services at the University of Rochester and can be reached at: pspaulding@facilities.rochester.edu.

 
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(604) 822-7913
dean.gregory@ubc.ca