The beautiful landscape and architecture that so many love at the College at Florham has presented problems in terms of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, leading to necessary construction throughout the campus.
Projects that have been designed to improve handicap accessibility include the wheelchair lift in the Mansion courtyard and the ramp near the Mansion portico, according to campus Provost Kenneth Greene.
Most recently, as many students have noticed, the construction to put an elevator in Dreyfuss building has begun. The project’s cost is approximately $3.5 million.
“The Dreyfuss renovation is designed to make the building handicapped accessible. According to the ADA, handicapped students must be able to reach the computer rooms and the ITV room and other academic and staff offices,” said Greene. “At this time, students in wheelchairs cannot reach these areas. The solution is to put an elevator in Dreyfuss.”
As previously reported in The Metro, periodically, the Office of Civil Rights checks various colleges to see if their ADA regulations are up to date. A few years ago, the Office of Civil Rights came to FDU to do a complete assessment and found that many of the campus’ buildings were not complying with ADA regulations, said Greene.
“A lot has already been done,” said Greene, referring to simple problems, such as lowering the paper towel dispensers to meet ADA regulation height.
On the other hand, some of the major renovations need more time.
The Office of Civil Rights had given FDU seven years to meet all accommodations, according to Greene. All new buildings, such as the New Academic Building, Park Ave., and Rutherford, had to be built handicap accessible.
The ADA requires other small changes as well. For example, the ADA says that a door must not require more than five pounds of pressure to open.
Because the College at Florham was not designed to be a college campus, it can be very difficult for physically-handicapped students to get around, according to Greene.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation,” according to its Web site.
The construction in Dreyfuss, which was supposed to start at the beginning of October, but was delayed for two weeks because of the late arrival of trailers to temporarily house the Information Technology offices, has been a hassle for some students.
“I am incredibly annoyed with the construction,” said senior Cindy Fernandez, who frequents the building to use the theater for play rehearsal. “Dreyfuss is like home-base for a bunch of us. There are times when I have to run to Dreyfuss real quick to pick something up or use a computer real quick between classes and I end up 10 to 15 minutes late to my classes that are outside of Dreyfuss because I have to walk around the entire building to go through the Rec. Center.”
Greene pointed out that no one will be able to use the front entrance of Dreyfuss until construction is completed, hopefully by early April.
“Until then, we must use the entrance to Dreyfuss that faces the athletic field,” Greene said. “This is an inconvenience, but the main renovation will involve removing the current front of the building and putting up a new one.”
Senior Elise Kaplan wishes construction had taken place when students were not on campus. “They are putting an elevator in, but the entire front and side of the building is closed off and you can’t even walk through in between Dreyfuss and the Rec. Center,” she said.
According to Greene, the construction is especially difficult because of the number of levels in the building. “The architect the University hired to design the renovation determined that the most appropriate place for the elevator was where the Information Technology offices are currently located,” he said.
When the elevator is installed, the building will lose a classroom on the lower level and most of the Information Technology offices. Consequently, the front of the building will be expanded by bumping it out toward the area that faces the plaza.
Greene hopes that the new front of Dreyfuss will blend more easily into the architecture of the Rec. Center and the NAB.
In the future, the University is scheduled to put an elevator in the Science Building in order to satisfy the ADA requirements and allow all students to utilize this building.