How to feature disability access on campus maps

Mapping process often begins with an inventory of all campus accessibility features

Virtual and physical campus maps of The George Washington University are being updated to include accessibility features like ramps and automatic doors, according to the student newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

Online campus maps will now indicate handicap parking signage, buildings with ramp entrances and restrooms and elevators that physically handicapped people can use, The GW Hatchet reported.

“It is not only helpful for current students but obviously prospective students because a lot of time they’ll look at those maps as they walk around,” Amy Martin, executive vice president of the university’s student association, told The GW Hatchet.

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Accessibility features are also highlighted on an online map created by James Madison University in Virginia, according to its student newspaper, The Breeze. The map shows handicapped entrances and bathrooms as well as gender-neutral bathrooms, baby-changing stations and lactation spaces.

The process of creating the map began in the fall of 2017 when the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity collected data on the accessibility features in each campus building, The Breeze reported.

The map, which lets users search and visualize campus features available on campus and inside buildings, uses aerial Google Earth views and drone images. It can be found through a link at the bottom of every university webpage, The Breeze reported.

Texas A&M University, which has one of the largest campuses in the nation, has also recently added information on parking and accessibility for people in wheelchairs to its interactive map.

Online maps generally plot the shortest overall route and lead users to a building’s main entrance. Texas A&M’s new map shows the most direct wheelchair-accessible route to wheelchair-accessible entrances—which are not always the main entrances, the university said in a news release.

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“Now, disabled individuals can be sure that they know the fastest and easiest way to get where they need to go,” Director of Disability Resources Kristie Orr said. “This map will be a model for other campuses.”

The University of San Francisco and the University of Colorado, Boulder, have made similar accessibility updates to campus maps, The GW Hatchet reported.

In the physical world, some campuses, such as Wright State University in Ohio, offer underground tunnels to boost mobility for students with disabilities, University Business reported in 2015.

“The tunnels at Wright State increase my level of independence and free mobility greatly around our campus,” student Dan Darkow told UB. “Once I am inside of any academic building, the student union or library, I am able to access the rest of campus underground.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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