In increments, NW Campus has begun to redevelop itself. One of the newest buildings, NW05, was a promise of something more, an example of the future. For NW student Jimmy Chestnut, a wheelchair user, it became something else.
He has run into various accessibility issues like limited access to outside entryways, bathrooms, classrooms and hallways. The building’s overcrowding, too, has increasingly set back his ability to navigate the halls among student traffic.
“They were supposed to make it better,” he said. “Maybe you have a lot of bugs to work out, I understand. But it should have been taken care of before the grand opening.”
Before NW05 was built, Chestnut said Student Accessibility Resources reached out to him to discuss with contractors what could be improved to make it more accessible for students.
These recent issues made him disappointed because he always felt heard at TCC before this semester.
“I just want everything to be fair for everybody, not just because I’m disabled,” he said. “Say, if you were to hurt your ankle or something and you’re on one of those scooters, the doors are still not accessible.”
John Posch, the program director for TCC’s $825 million 2019 bond program including NW Campus redevelopment, said that NW05 is fully ADA compliant.
In an email response shared from Reginald Gates, vice chancellor of communications and external affairs, on Sept. 21, Posch addressed the issue of elevator maintence. He stated four of the five elevators currently work, and he expects the fifth elevator to be repaired soon.
He also said the overcrowding will subside once other NW Campus departments move to the NW01 building, expected to open this month.
He added that push buttons to open entryways are not an ADA Texas requirement, though a problem was identified with the opening force of the doors. The problem was expected to be fixed once parts arrived.
Chestnut was not made aware of these corrections, however, and has not noticed a difference.
Chestnut was invited to meet with NW Campus SAR Director Deborah Schall after sending a letter to her about the issues he had been having since the start of the semester. He said they discussed making accommodations in his classes and looking at the facility’s elevator complications. He was also told an additional push button would be implemented to NW05 on the south side.
Jan Clayton, NW vice president of student affairs, was able to confirm this as well. She explained that one of her and the college’s top priorities is listening to the needs of the students and taking ADA concerns seriously.
“Always as a college, we should be looking for opportunities to increase access for students and support and resources, and so hearing that feedback lets us know that we have to really prioritize and hear that and respond to that,” she said.
She advises students to go to their SAR director with accessibility issues that need to be address.
“If we need to develop a specific accommodation plan for that student, we will do that, and if we need to develop a specific accommodation plan for an employee, we will do that,” she said. “And if there’s something for a guest to the building or a community member that we can address in the immediate, we will do that as well.”
Chestnut said what he wants is for people to listen to him and others with accessibility needs. He believes it is important to be able to that space to express concerns and be heard.
“I mean, you gotta open somebody’s eyes to get change to happen,” he said.
He invites those in charge of the building development to spend a day navigating the building in a wheelchair or on crutches because they may come to realize how many problems he encounters in a day.
“I’m sure they’ve gone through everything with a fine-tooth comb,” Chestnut said. “But if you’re not in a chair, you’re not gonna get my point of view.”