A brief description of you or your weblog!

blog watch

  • blog watch

  • Education Blogs

  • tech

    Valid XHTML

    Syndicate this site:
    Entries (RSS)
    Comments (RSS)

    12th March 2012

    Elevator access…

    Living in a big city with a lot of history and older buildings, and going to a school with a lot of history and older buildings is a little bit different than living on the Front Range of Colorado. Most public buildings, restaurants, and schools in the Loveland-Fort Collins area were built relatively recently and generally have accessible entrances and sensible planned elevator placements.

    This is not the case in Los Angeles or at USC. I don’t necessarily want to deface historic buildings with cool architecture, and there would be prohibitive costs to updating other buildings in ways that made the building more universally accessible. However, sometimes there are some things that could be done differently that would make things easier for people with access issues. I’m planning on writing a few posts about these in the near future, but I’ll start with one that is more or less already written for me.

    The Lyon Center is USC’s recreation center/gym for students. It was built in the 1989 next to the McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium. The pool is incredible and I have loved swimming in both the 50 meter competition pool and the 25 yard diving pool. However, the Lyon Center itself has a few access issues. For one thing, entering the center on the main floor, there is a single width turnstyle for entering and then several doors for exiting users that are kept locked on the outside. So for a wheelchair user to enter the first floor, either a person from the desk has to go around and open the door or if a user is exiting at that moment, he or she can hold the door. That’s not so bad.

    To get to the second floor there is an elevator. However, the elevator is outside of the official entrance, in the lobby area. This summer, when I would go to the Lyon Center, the elevator would always be locked and I would have to ask someone from the desk to unlock it if I wanted to use to machines and weights upstairs. This might not seem like a big deal, but sometimes people at the desk were busy or were unable to locate the elevator key right away. And besides that, I was frustrated that I was the only user that I ever saw having to ask to use the upstairs of the facility. I talked to some of the people working at the desk one night. They explained it was policy and I tried to reason with them that the policy was not right and just – and I got a bit heated up and realized there wasn’t anything the front desk workers could do so I left a note for their supervisor with my email.

    I’m publishing the following email exchange not as a way to tarnish or damage anyone’s reputation, but for the sake of learning from one another. I understand and respect the position of the people I interacted with concerning this situation, but I think it is interesting because it shows the lack of understanding and awareness for the general public when it comes to accessibility issues. It also gives part of my position in regards to access and why equal and independently achieved access is so important.

    Here is the email I received after leaving the note:

    Hi Daryl,

    I received a note from one of my staff members about the elevator access. We have to lock the elevator in the up position during business hours because it allows direct access to our second floor. Hence we have no way to control who uses the elevator to gain access to the facility. That is why we lock the elevator unless we have a member who needs to utilize it. I hope this helps answer your question and apologize for the inconvenience. If you ever need access, just let one of our staff members know and they’d be happy to help you. Thank you.

    Brendan Gail
    Assistant Director, Recreational Sports

    My (delayed) response to this email:


    I’m surprised I never replied to this message when I received it a few months back. I appreciate the information about elevator access at the Lyon Center – however, I have to respectfully question whether there isn’t a better solution to this issue. I was actually quite surprised, as a new graduate student at USC, to find this situation with the elevator in the recreation center, especially since USC is the host institution for the Swim With Mike program and has had so many SWM recipients. I’m not saying that this is an egregious piece of discrimination, but it is a blatant inequality. Only students who require elevator use have to ask to go to the second floor – and then wait while a staff member finds the elevator key. Since you have never been in this situation, you might not realize that access issues confront wheelchair users everywhere they go, creating a feeling of second-class citizenship. Certainly an institution like USC would want to be on the front lines creating
    an equal-access environment for as many students as possible. A tenet of education in America today is that “separate is not equal,” and it doesn’t seem as though I should have to ask to go upstairs at the Lyon Center when no other student would ever have to do the same.

    If the situation doesn’t change I will still continue to use the Lyon Center – think of this message as a suggestion of something to look into that could improve the experience of a small group of students. I’m not sure what a good solution would be to this problem, but one idea would be to issue elevator passes to students or other Lyon Center users who require elevator access and request them.

    I also have one other suggestion for the Lyon Center. It could be beneficial to the student population as a whole have one or two pieces of cardio equipment that could be utilized by non-ambulatory students, such as an upper body ergometer or stationary handcycle. These could benefit not only students who are not able to use the other cardio machines such as treadmills or ellipticals, but also other students who are rehabbing from injury or who want to do a cross-training workout.

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Daryl Holmlund

    The response that I got back, after my email apparently made its way to a different level of management:


    First of all, I want you to know that the reason we keep the elevator in the locked position is for “safety”. As Brendan has mentioned to you in his email, we have had some unfortunate situations with non USC students gaining access to the facilities through the facilities. Having said that, you have made a very valid point. Our intent is never to make anyone unwelcome or have the feeling of inequality.

    Moving forward, my suggestion is for anyone who needs the use of the elevator to check out the key with his/her ID from our Membership and/or Facilities staff. I will work with the Facilities Management Services staff to see the possibilities of installing a card swipe system for the elevator.
    Please let me know if you have any other suggestions and we will work together to resolve it.
    Thank you.

    Arvin Varma
    Project Administrator Youth Programs
    Associate Director
    USC Recreational Sports

    I would like to say that I have seen the new cardio equipment that was ordered, but I haven’t. And I would love to say that a card swipe had been installed for the elevator. It hasn’t.

    But, on the other hand, the elevator hasn’t ever been locked anytime I’ve been to the Lyon Center during this school year. I’m not sure if giving up security for accessibility is a 100% win, but perhaps they realized that the security issue was easily taken care of by having attentive desk workers, while the accessibility issue was also easily resolved (for me, at least) by leaving the elevator unlocked. I know there are several other wheelchair users who occasionally use the Lyon Center, but more importantly, it will hopefully mean better access for the students who will be coming in the future.

    Leave a Reply

    To reply to this post, please enter your name and write your comment in the textbox below. Some HTML tags are allowed, but others will be stripped if you enter them in your comments.

    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.