Location: Union Market located within The Ohio State Student Union
Hours: Monday – Thursday 10:30 am – 10:00 pm, Friday 10:30 am – 9:00 pm, Saturday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Address: 1739 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43210
Group Members: Izzi Nejedlik, Brett Underwood, and Morgan Furness
The Union Market is a one level area located in the northwest corner of the first floor at The Ohio State Student Union on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The Student Union is located on the east side of campus. There is a parking garage next to it. The main purpose of the Union Market is to be a place where people (primarily Ohio State students that live on campus) can go to get a variety of food options. The size of the Union Market is around 3000 sq feet and can be described as a rectangularly shaped space. There are different food stations around the perimeter of the space and the counters are all relatively the same height (approximately 3.5 feet). Each station has a glass barrier to protect the food from being contaminated by the customers at the Union Market. In the very middle of the space there is a round salad station that is also roughly the height of the other food stations in the market. This space has a glass top instead of there being a barrier to separate the contents from the customers since this is a self serving station. The floor is completely tiled to allow for easy clean up when food/drinks are spilt on the floor. The colors of the space are also very neutral in the scheme of oranges and browns to keep the space more modern. Over the food stations the lighting is very bright so the workers are able to properly see the food and are able to prepare it properly. The larger space where people are moving around from station to station is vastly dimmer than the work stations. The lighting is just bright enough so people are able to read and see what food they are eating.
While we were observing the space we were able to see the space at both its peak time and also the times where the market was much calmer with less people. As a group we estimated this space was one of the most populated spaces on campus during prime meal times (11:30am- 1:30pm and 5:30pm- 8:00pm) since it is located very centrally and closely to the dorms on the south campus area. Since the Union Market is one of the more popular meal spots for students on campus there are stanchions to help guide lines to make the space seem more organized during the peak hours. The stanchions are typically placed 3 feet from the station counter creating walkways and designated lines for the crowds. Placed at the two entrances of the Union Market are the cash registers with a small scale placed at the end of the counter where customers must place certain food items. Also at the entrances/exits the Union Market are the drink stations which are the 1000+ Coke Freestyle machines. The Coke Machines are a little higher than the counters since they are placed on top of them which adds about 6 inches in height.
There are three different entrance options to get into Union Market in the Ohio State Student Union. All three options are doors, two of which are located on the oval side of the market. The oval is on the west side of the Ohio State Student Union. There are ramps available leading up to these doors and both sets are double doors followed by a second set of double doors, all of which have a button that will open them automatically. The double doors make for a very wide entrance. The third entrance option is the main entrance of the student union, which also has multiple sets of double doors with automatic buttons available. All doors have handles on them. Once inside the market, if on the oval side/ west side there are both stairs and a ramp that can be used to get through the seating area to the market. There are clear paths to both, however while viewing our space there was people frequently blocking the ramp and stairs because of how overcrowded the market was. Because the market is a popular meal space for students, the market is usually very crowded, people wearing perfumes and deodorants, carrying school supplies, and wearing backpacks. The market is all on one floor, but located within a building that has many other floors. There are both elevators that are clearly labeled and stairs available to get between floors. When in the union, there is an info desk with employees that can direct you to the market, and though the market is labeled, it may not be very clear to those not familiar with Ohio State.
There are no bathrooms in the market, but there are both men and women restrooms, clearly labeled with braille, containing ten stalls, one of which is a handicapped stall, located on the first floor of the union. In order to get to these bathrooms, you need to exit the Union Market via the east exit into the main open area on the first floor of the Ohio State Student Union. After exiting you need to take a left and walk straight until you see the bathroom signs on your left. There are also drinking fountains, two that are each a different height, right in front of the bathrooms.
In the market, fluorescent lighting is used, and because the market does not have windows, there is very little natural light. There is no access to lighting controls. The temperature of the market was comfortable; there is air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. There is no control of the temperature to visitors and no access to a thermostat, fan, or windows. There are mechanical noises in the market, of drinks being blended, ovens opening and other kitchen appliances. There are also low-level noises such as beeping when food is ready. It is pretty loud in the market because employees call names when food is ready and students are often chatting with one another. There are no scented air fresheners around the market.
People are making food with nuts and oils in the market. The market is not a good space for people with food allergies because areas like the salad bar and soup station may be easily cross contaminated as people spill contents of one container into another. Foods like sandwiches are all put in the same panini press, also causing possible mixing of foods. There are very few options in the union where spaces are not contaminated for those with food allergies. In one area there were gluten free signs indicating that there are options at that section that are gluten free. There are overhead signs listing food options, but they do not list which ingredients are in each item. The signs are very hard to read and there is not another copy of the food options available to take. When crowded, it is difficult to get close enough to read each sign. There are people working, but nobody walking around the market to assist those that may need help reading menus. There is also not an employee behind the salad bar and soup station to tell people what each item is. The soups have signs indicating what they are, but each item in the salad bar is not labeled. There are many shelves of snack foods, fruit, drinks, and pre made meals that are very high. There are no employees working to help reach these items, making them very inaccessible. There were tall drink machines that are touch screen only. People have to be standing in order to use these. A sign and a hand sanitizer dispenser mark each line, which is formed by a stanchion. The width of these lines is not wide enough for a wheelchair, and it is easy to trip on the poles. A stanchion is also used to direct the salad bar line, which curves around and is also very thin. Silverware is plastic and is located around the corner from the market near the seating area. It is in machines on top of a high counter. It is definitely not accessible, and there are no employees in this area to assist if needed.
Throughout our observation of the Union Market, we came up with an abundance of suggestions for those who maintain this space or who might design similar spaces in the future. To be completely honest, the only positive aspect we found in this space is the entrance. Entrance into the market area includes multiple wide and open entrances, also including a couple ramps for those who are in a wheelchair, but once you enter the area it is a disaster for anyone who has a visible or even invisible disability. First, the people who maintain this space should take better care of the areas serving and preparing food. At the salad bar, there is so much cross contamination that anyone with dietary restriction could probably not eat there. While we were there, we witnessed a girl with certain dietary restrictions ask a worker a nutritional question that the worker did not know how to answer. We would recommend that the workers in this facility are educated about nutrition and different dietary needs since they are working with food. Additionally, none of the toppings at the salad bar are labeled. This is an example of how sometimes people do not consider the disabled community. Not only would a blind or hard of seeing person not be able to choose toppings for their salad, but also someone who cannot see over the counter would not be able to tell what the toppings are, making it impossible to make choices for their meal. We suggest the people who maintain this space not only make it safer for people with nutritional needs by keeping the area clean and separated, but also labeling the topping choices in order for people to be capable of making choices for their meals.
In addition to the salad bar, all food stations yell out your name when the food is prepared and there is no alternate method to knowing when your food is ready. This is another inconsideration for the disabilities community. The people who maintain this space should implement a form of screens with text so all kinds of people will be able to know when their food is done being made without having to rely solely on hearing the call of your name.
Along with clean up, cross contamination precautions, and implementing a screen that informs customers when their food is ready, if someone were to design a space similar to this, we would recommend that they make it larger and more open. At times, the area gets so crowded that it is hard to maneuver through the facility and you come in contact with many people. The lines that are sectioned off forming around the salad bar, cash register, and around each station should also be made wider. If anyone has any type of social anxiety or an alternate form of maneuverability, this would be a terrible place for them to be. With a larger and more open space, people would have more room to maneuver and function while grabbing a bite to eat.
In regards to those who use this space, it is important that they are first and foremost educated that every person has different needs and to never judge others on the way they must maneuver through life just because it may be different from the way you are familiar with. If others are more considerate of this, I think the whole environment would become a more considerate and safe place for the disabled community. Specifically in the Union Market, it would be of great help if people would make more of an effort to clean up after themselves. A lot of times, cross contamination happens in the salad bar because people can be careless. If they are more careful and clean, consumers can help prevent cross contamination.
Since the Union Market is not the most open and inviting space, it would also be more than helpful if people stood clear of others trying to maneuver through the facility. A lot of times, people are standing around and talking to their friends while waiting on their food. The place is already relatively small and can be very crowded, so if customers would be more aware of maximizing the space provided, we think it could be a more convenient space.