The Ohio State University
Disability Studies 2277
Accessibility Audit of The Berry Cafe
Location: The Ohio State University
Building: Thompson Library (1858 Neil Ave, Columbus, OH 43210)
Room: The Berry Cafe
Group Members: Taylor Tharp, Mike Collins, and Abby Moretti
The Task and Background Information:
As students of The Ohio State University enrolled in Disability Studies 2277 course, we were instructed to conduct an accessibility audit (evaluation of how well an environment supports the needs of people with disabilities) for a specific area found on our college campus. Our group selected The Berry Café for the Accessibility Audit. The Berry Café is located within the first floor of Thompson Library. The purpose of this room is to provide a space for students to eat, chat, and study; it is not known to be a quiet room on campus, rather it is assumed to be a place for meeting with other students in a casual environment. When first observing the space, we noticed a chaotic ambiance in such that our first impression of analyzing the space from a disability studies perspective enabled us to notice the use of bright fluorescent lighting, the clamoring of the blenders, constant beeping of the food timers, abundance of cooking related smells, and an overwhelming number of students filling up the café line and seating areas. Fluorescent lighting is not a good lighting source within an environment with Deaf people because the harsh lighting negatively affects the sight of people signing. Another negative of the cafe was the overabundance of background noise, this creates a distraction for others trying to communicate or focus on studying. Finally, another major negative that was found was the little space that was actually allowed for wheelchair accessibility. Spaces between tables and chairs was very cramped and hard to maneuver through. We also initially noticed that given the function of the space and the amount of people within the room, it felt quite cluttered and impractical. Overall, our first observation of The Berry Café, using a disability studies framework, allowed for us to identify some problematic elements in a very popular campus location.
For this assignment, we were given an accessibility checklist that was compiled with contributions from Aimi Hamraie (Vanderbilt University), Liat Ben-Moshe (University of Toledo), Dale Ireland (Cal State East Bay), and Johnna Keller (The Epsten Group Architecture). This checklist asked a range of questions from doorway widths to lighting environment. When utilizing the checklist, our group gathered some foundational information about the space. The checklist allowed for us to further invade the space, questioning a multitude of elements within the room and even the accessibility of the space leading up to the room. We found the walkway up to The Berry Café to not only be a hindrance, but a danger to people with disabilities. Uneven brick was used to build a narrow path surrounded by steep steps around one of two entrances into the café. There were other problematic elements, such as the absence of any braille options, limited visible food allergy information, and limited captioning on surrounded televisions. In addition, there were a lack of blinds on windows allowing for an overabundance of sunlight to enter the space, and when asked for a free cup of water, The Berry Café workers refused and explained that fountain water must be purchased. Structural issues within the space consist of an inefficient amount of space between tables and chairs that are not accessible to people who utilize wheelchairs/walking assistance. The food and drink counter is too tall (over 48”) for all people to reach, and there is a lack of handrails around the room as a whole.
After observing and analyzing the space, our group decided upon some recommendations for The Berry Cafe. Structural changes to the room, such as utilizing flooring of a different material, could benefit the deaf community. Also, creative factors as simple as having comfortable chairs of all heights could universally benefit customers of all abilities. Finally, we would recommend changing the background colors of the room so that American Sign Language can be used and understood more efficiently.
When performing our accessibility audit, it was important for our group to critique the space for a diversity of disabilities; physical, cognitive, and psychiatric. With this in mind, we viewed the space holistically, investigated problematic elements, and brainstormed ideas that would accommodate for disabled people both structurally and creatively. This was done by observing the physical, cognitive, and sensory factors that impact the ways in which a person with disabilities accesses a space like The Berry Café.