The University of New Mexico is entering a new phase of strengthening accessibility for students, faculty, staff and community members on the main campus in Albuquerque.

“Accessibility is only the first step as we’re moving towards universal design which is looking at everything you do in a way that isn’t just helpful for people with disabilities, but is also for different learning styles, ages, and abilities – and building that into every decision we make,” said UNM Chief Compliance Officer & ADA Coordinator, Francie Cordova. “This latest development, which will involve a variety of members of the campus community, comes after several years of development and groundwork.”

For the last several decades, UNM has been steadily working to improve certain accessibility elements around the campus to align with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The efforts are being headed jointly by the Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) and the Office of Compliance, Ethics and Equal Opportunity (CEEO). In 2018, the group worked with the ADA compliance consulting group, Accessology, to assess the ADA plan and prioritize upgrades.

“Right now, depending on where you look, we fall pretty much in the middle of the pack in terms of accessibility,” said Director for the UNM Accessibility Resource Center, Amanda Butrum. “Some institutions have led the way on ensuring accessible campus environments and others have done very little or nothing at all. By taking these steps and prioritizing and planning future revisions, I’m excited to see UNM become a more user-friendly campus with accessibility for all.”

Data from the Accessology assessment showed the priorities should be buildings, paths of travel and web accessibility. Now it is time for the campus and community to sound off on what they’re seeing, in order to create an even more robust plan.

Surveys being sent out Fall 2021
The UNM Office of Institutional Analytics is currently working with CEEO to create a survey that is part of an ADA requirement, and will go out to selected students, staff, faculty and administrators. The purpose of the survey is to get internal evaluation on what accessibility requirements need to be met within the parameters of the Accessology scope, which includes buildings, paths of travel and web accessibility.

The survey will be tailored to the audiences it is sent to. Two versions will be sent to front line staff and faculty members who have firsthand knowledge of accessibility complaints or accessibility efforts within different units. Understanding what is already in place will enable more efficient use of resources moving forward.

A second survey will be sent to students asking similar questions. Those answers will also be integrated into the ADA plan.

Buildings, paths of travel and web accessibility
While awaiting input from the community, the CEEO and ARC group is continuing to move pieces into place. They sent out a request for proposals and chose the local firm Architectural Research Consultants to complete a review of buildings and paths of travel on main campus, and several select buildings at the UNM Health Sciences Center.

The review is anticipated to be complete at the end of the summer, and a subsequent report outlining prioritized remediation projects. This will be included in the ADA plan and used to apply for federal and state funding of upgrades.

A second request for proposals brought TPGi (formally Paciello Group) consulting group in to assess the current state of UNM websites and digital assets.

During April, they interviewed stake holders including students, staff, faculty and community members and have finalized a report on digital asset and website accessibility as well as policies, processes and best practices. The group will also deliver targeted training to on-campus web designers and developers.

Campus map updates
In addition to the above, CEEO and ARC are also working to get the UNM Campus Map updated to reflect ADA accessible restroom availability more accurately.

In partnership with the LGBTQ Resource Center and Institutional Support Services, the group is evaluating the map to include ADA accessibility and the locations of universal restrooms. This supports UNM Policy 5300 which was issued in 2016 and establishes guidelines for the design of universal restrooms, restroom facilities that can accommodate users regardless of gender identity, disability, or family status. Building coordinators are currently evaluating bathrooms in buildings to determine if they’re ADA accessible or what needs to be done to get them up to par.

The prioritization of projects and upgrades is dictated partially by funding, with the emphasis being placed on areas that programmatically impact campus and students.