In our accessibility audit we observed the 11th floor of the Thompson Library at The Ohio State University, which is called the Campus Reading Room.  Accessibility refers to the ease of use and access of products, areas, services, and devices for all individuals, including those with disabilities. In assessing accessibility, we observed the design of the space and noted how the environment impacts a person’s ability to access or utilize the space and products used within the space.  

Sign (without Braille) signifying location of wheelchair ramp at east entrance of Thompson Library.
Sign (without Braille) signifying location of wheelchair ramp at east entrance of Thompson Library.

In order to access the 11th floor of Thompson Library, you must first enter the library through one of three entrances. Both the west and the east main entrances are highly accessible with the doors having a width of 36 inches, but the third entrance located in the library’s cafe is not accessible due to stairs. The west entrance has push buttons to open the doors at a height of 34 inches and the doors handles being 38 inches off of the ground.  All of the previously mentioned measurements meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.  A potential hazard at this entrance would be the rugs located on the floor as soon as you enter the building. The east entrance essentially mimics the west entrance in terms of entrance size, width, and availability of automatic door openers, however, there are stairs immediately as you enter the building. A ramp is provided to the left of the entrance and there are signs acknowledging the ramp. There is no Braille provided on the exterior of the building or on the sign directing toward the ramp.  In order to get to the 11th floor once inside, individuals must use the main elevators located in the center of the library. There are clear indicated paths for these elevators and they run on every floor of the library.

“Welcome sign for Thompson Library indicating what floors important features are on, such as, Info Desk, Restrooms, ATM, and Cafe”
Welcome sign for Thompson Library indicating what floors important features are on, such as, Info Desk, Restrooms, ATM, and Cafe.
elevator-buttons
The buttons on the elevator to the 11th floor that include braille.

 

 

bathroom
‘Handicap’ stall in the women’s restroom located on the fourth floor.

We assessed the restrooms first because they are located on a lower floor than the space we chose for our audit.  Even though there are restrooms located on the 11th floor, they are locked at all times and are strictly used for special events. The nearest restrooms are located on the fourth floor and have accessibility issues.  Difficulties regarding the fourth floor restrooms include the doors being fairly heavy and lacking push buttons to open them, making it difficult to access.  Once inside, we noticed that that the width of the “handicap” stall meets the (ADA) requirement, but soap and paper towel dispensers are located fairly high from the ground.  Thompson Library does not have any specific gender-neutral restrooms, but the restrooms on the 11th floor are single-user restrooms when opened.  The restrooms could easily be one of the largest obstacles that anyone could face when utilizing this space.

elevator-gap
The elevator entrance for the 11th floor showing the gap and rugs.

Once on the 11th floor, we noticed a gap between the flooring of the room and the elevator.  This could be hazardous for an individual using a wheelchair, crutches, a walker, but is not limited to these type of aid devices. This could be hazardous for someone pushing stroller or even someone with loose shoelaces. The 11th floor space is used to study and it is a very quiet room. Students are usually reading a book or looking over class materials, either sitting at tables or in the chairs facing the windows overlooking Ohio State’s campus.  Often times this floor is used for special events hosted by the university, so it may be closed to the public on occasion, which is something to always keep in mind.

table-and-chair-setup
Arrangement of eight tables, each with six chairs, in main study space of the 11th floor.

Our group observed the open space of the floor, as well as accessibility to desks and restrooms. Most of the tables that are available to use are accessible, but there were many lounge chairs and a few tables that did not have a wheelchair clearance. There were six chairs at each table, which made the area crowded.  We noticed that this was unusual because there are usually four chairs to a table, but we realized that that could have been the result of an event that had just taken place in the space.  We also noticed that some areas, like “cubby-like” study spaces to the sides of the room, may be inaccessible due to heavy furniture and tight spaces for movement.  We noted the amount of Braille used in the area, which was minimal.  This reflects the minimal signs that are used in the space.

Sign indicating where the restrooms are located as well as where to obtain a wheelchair.
Sign indicating where the restrooms are located as well as where to obtain a wheelchair.

Future designs should include accessible restrooms, especially in a space that is isolated from other floors with restrooms.  In terms of design, the space is designed fairly well, except for some characteristics like the transfer from the elevator to the main flooring of the 11th floor and the couch area, which had very narrow pathways and rugs that could inhibit its accessibility.  For the closest existing restrooms on the fourth floor, automatic door-opening buttons would make the area more accessible as well.  A larger use of Braille on signs would also increase accessibility.  Additionally, easily movable furniture would increase accessibility, especially in tighter spaced areas.

Accessible ramp with railings at the east entrance of the library
Accessible ramp with railings at the east entrance of the library.

For those who already use this space, it is recommended to use the restroom before venturing up to the 11th floor of Thompson Library, especially if you plan to stay for long. We would recommend users to try and keep their belongings close to them and out of any pathways.  Even though walkways are fairly wide and clear of any obstacles, it is always good to keep them clear, especially around the main study tables located in the middle of the room.  Users sensitive to light may also want to reconsider using the 11th floor of Thompson Library on bright and sunny days since the room lets in a substantial amount of natural sunlight.  Users should also be aware that this area is not always open, so it is good to have a backup plan just in case.

Narrowly spaced lounge area on the 11th floor, including couches, chairs, and a table.
Narrowly spaced lounge area on the 11th floor, including couches, chairs, and a table.

All in all, the information we gathered let us know that the 11th floor of Thompson Library may not be as accessible as you might think.  In most cases, there is always room for improvement to make spaces more accessible for all individuals.  

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