Will the $30 million renovations at Trinity make the Jarvis building handicap-accessible?
By ADAM BULGER, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
November 29, 2007
Trinity College is currently undergoing a 15-month, multi-million-dollar renovation on two of the campus's most recognizable buildings, Jarvis and Seabury.
However, some students and alumni of the Hartford liberal arts school are concerned that the $30 million-plus renovations do not account for disability access for the residential building Jarvis.
"They said that structurally, the design of the building made it physically impossible to implement any accessibility measures whatsoever," Trinity senior Haley Kimmet said.
Trinity alumnus and former school employee Joseph Stramondo, was the first full-time wheelchair-using student to attend Trinity. The school, Stramondo said, was mostly accommodating while he was there.
"They definitely made a good effort to get access to what I absolutely needed to," Stramondo said. "They made modifications to my living arrangements, to the building I needed to get into. They moved classes if they were scheduled in places I couldn't get to. Overall, they were pretty good." However, both Jarvis and Seabury — buildings he described as "the centerpieces of campus" — were inaccessible to him.
"For a wheelchair user, the whole place was off limits. If somehow you were able to get inside, moving from floor to floor was off-limits because there was no elevator," Stramondo said.
Stramondo and Kimmet first saw the renovation of the two buildings as an opportunity to make both buildings accessible. They met with Trinity College president James Jones and director of building and grounds Mary Katz, and were told that while Seabury, which contains classrooms and offices, would be wheelchair accessible, residential building Jarvis would not.
"Seabury will be completely handicapped accessible," Trinity spokesperson Michelle Jacklin said. Jarvis will not be wheelchair accessible. But, Jacklin said, accommodations have been made for hearing and sight impaired students. In addition, two residential buildings near Jarvis are already wheelchair accessible.
Stan Kosloski, a Trinity graduate who worked with Connecticut's office of protection and advocacy for persons with disabilities for 25 years, is working with Kimmet and Stramondo to determine if the school is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Under the ADA, when you're a private entity doing a renovation project, you have to spend up to 20 percent of the cost of renovation [minus cosmetic work] on providing a path of travel," Kosloski said. Kosloski hasn't been able to determine the renovation's precise budget breakdown, and therefore isn't sure if they are violating the act.
In its 200-plus-year history, Trinity has had few full-time wheelchair-using students.
However, Trinity's disability advocates say the school's purported lack of accessibility is the cause, not the result, of the relatively low number of disabled students at the school.
"You're not going to apply to a school as a wheelchair user if the dean of student's office is up a flight of stairs," Stramondo said.