As a part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Why are there limited to no handicap bathroom stalls in Harper-Schramm-Smith and Abel-Sandoz?”
Richard Firebaugh, fire marshal and building code official at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said there are handicap accessible public bathrooms in both Harper-Schramm-Smith and Abel-Sandoz, though there aren’t many public bathrooms in general. He said this is because Harper-Schramm-Smith and Abel-Sandoz are residence halls, where the expectation is that students can use their floor bathroom.
“There are two seperate rules in terms of what is available to the public and what is available in the [dorm] rooms,” he said.
Firebaugh also said the lack of accessible bathrooms has to do with the guidelines on accessible design, as per revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1994 concerning design and accessibility in buildings and facilities. He said the regulations and guidelines for accessibility were more lax under the 1994 revision than they are in the most recent 2010 version.
“Looking at it, I’m not sure if it would comply with the 1994 version or not,” he said. ”It’s likely that it would, because there are just so many caveats that let people get by with stuff.”
Firebaugh said another possible reason is that ADA guidelines only require institutions like UNL to consider accessibility on a campus-wide level, not on a building-by-building basis.
“They have to accommodate people under the ADA, but they were allowed to back then, and to some degree today, to accommodate by having a dedicated building where people with needs could be located,” he said.
Though Services for Students with Disabilities does not indicate a specific residence hall as more accessible, any student in need of housing accommodations can provide documentation of their requirements to receive accommodation, according to the website.
According to Firebaugh, students can report concerns about accessibility to Institutional Equity and Compliance.
“If there are concerns about accessibility, they should be reported to the campus compliance people,” he said, “and they will work to handle the concerns as the needs are identified.”