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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Tufts Capital Projects plans new accessible housing

Handicap accessible doors are available in Harleston Hall on Nov 14.

Accessibility changes are coming to Tufts housing, specifically in Houston, Miller and Stratton Halls, according to Director of Capital Projects Gretchen Von Grossman.

According to Von Grossman, every project in a campus building requires code compliance, including accessibility. Tufts has a university-wide five-year Capital Plan, which includes renovations to these three dorms, she said.

"Generally, our plan for building renewal is consistently coordinated with the plan for accessibility shared with MAAB [Massachusetts Architectural Access Board]," Von Grossman told the Daily in an email.

The board works to ensure buildings are accessible for those with disabilities, according to its website. Von Grossman said that Tufts and MAAB have had a long-standing relationship.

"Tufts Capital Projects has had a close working relationship with MAAB for almost ten years," Von Grossman said. "Our relationship is based on a shared plan for accessibility for the residential buildings on campus."

According to Von Grossman, preparations were made for a new accessible entrance to be installed in Stratton Hall's lower level last year. Von Grossman added that Stratton's renovations will start in summer 2018 and will include a lift between the lower level and the first floor, among other accommodations.

Houston Hall and Miller Hall will also be getting elevator access to every floor, she said, along with the creation of 40 accessible rooms that will have new 36-inch wide doors and accessible furniture. Each building will have an accessible walkway from the front door to Olin Hall and Carmichael Hall, as well as accessible appliances and counter space in the kitchen and laundry rooms. All Houston and Miller bathrooms will also have an accessible sink, toilet and shower, she said.

"Once we complete Stratton and Miller [and] Houston, we will have more than met the code requirement of 5% accessible residential rooms in the dorms on campus," Von Grossman said.

She added that there are plans to upgrade the baths in Tilton Hall to meet accessibility codes in the summer of 2019 and plans to designate five rooms in Sophia Gordon Hall and two in Hillsides for accessibility upgrades in 2020.

"This project is under active review by MAAB, and we are working closely with them to ensure compliance. Our preliminary plans exceed requirements and MAAB is very receptive to that," she said.

Von Grossman said that Capital Projects hopes to complete Stratton Hall changes by summer 2019 and Miller and Houston Hall changes by August 2019.

Students with disabilities, both visible and invisible, have struggled with navigating the Tufts campus in the past. Tess Ross-Callahan, a senior, sustained a stress fracture in her toe. This injury impacted her ability to walk around the Tufts campus. Ross-Callahan said that her injury made her more aware of how challenging it is to avoid stairs while walking from lower to upper campus, and that this challenge requires students who may be unable to use stairs to seek lengthy alternative routes.

Ross-Callahan's injury is temporary, but she stressed the importance of making Tufts more accessible for students who have disabilities.

"I know that we have students who experience those things all the time," Ross-Callahan said. "I have had friends who have had to choose dorms based on their accessibility, and not based on what they wanted, which I think is a sign that we need more options."

Von Grossman expressed optimism over the improvements in accessibility that are coming to Tufts housing.

"Based on the plan developed in conjunction with the MAAB, Tufts will soon be more than meeting its requirement in terms of accessible residential rooms on campus," Von Grossman said. "And, for every project undertaken, we are code compliant and often better."