Group Members: Gabby Grose, Madison McClure, Taylor McCulley

Independence Hall is a sizeable and long-standing lecture hall located on The Ohio State University’s campus and is an everyday classroom for an array of OSU students. The lecture hall’s seating for seven hundred and twenty-seven students allows for larger courses that many students are required to attend, such as general education courses and mandatory pre-requisite courses for certain majors. As students interested in Disability Studies, we’ve inquired the overall accessibility of Independence Hall through the usage of an accessibility audit. Within this audit is a selection of questions chosen from the ADA, as well as exercises established by professors Aimi Hamraie, Liat Ben-Moshe, and Dale Ireland, and contribution from architect Johnna Keller. These selected questions are used as a source of inspection that can evaluate the access of an environment for all individuals attending the university.  Following the assessment of Independence Hall, we have discovered advantages, as well as disadvantages, based upon the accessibility for disabled individuals.

We observed upon entering the auditorium that the lighting in the lecture hall is very dim. As a result, we recommend producing more light in the room by inserting windows, if possible, or more light fixtures within the room for those with visual impairments. Students who sit in the back of the room, especially students who have visual impairments, would benefit from lighting improvements. In addition, we noticed that the single pencil sharpener in the room is too high for wheelchair users to comfortably reach. By lowering the height of the pencil sharpener, all users would be able to reach it in a comfortable manner.

Next, we noticed that only four seats, relative to the seven hundred and twenty-seven total seats, are equipped for disabled individuals. The few handicapped seats in the classroom are nearly inaccessible to wheelchair users due to their location. In order for handicapped individuals to get to the top of the lecture hall, where the seats are located, he/she would have to find a ramp outside of the building. Independence Hall does have a handicapped entrance; however, there is no ramp access for wheelchairs once entering inside the building. We discovered that the only way to reach the upper level of the lecture hall from the lower level is to climb a set of stairs.The stairs would also pose another problem if a wheelchair user wanted to communicate with the professor after class. He/she would have to exit the building and go through the back entrance just to reach the front of the lecture hall, which is highly inconvenient. By incorporating both a ramp on each side of the classroom and/or more handicapped seating, individuals with physical impairments would have access to the seat of their choice on both the upper and lower levels of the room.

Located outside the lecture hall is a set of stairs next to the handicapped entrance that leads to the upper level of the building.  Courtesy of Taylor McCulley

The restrooms, on the other hand, are very accessible. We immediately noticed the handicap buttons that are located on each side of the restroom doors, as well as the braille located on the restroom signs. In addition, we noted that at least one of the stalls in each restroom are handicap accessible, as well as the light switches, paper towel dispensers, sinks, and soaps all being within reach. In contrast, the water fountain located in the hallway is too high off of the ground. It would accommodate all individuals within the building if another water fountain was added at a lower height adjacent to the original fountain. Furthermore, we recommend incorporating single-user or gender-neutral restrooms within the building to grant all students access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The space would be accessible to a significantly broader array of individuals within the university if these simple recommendations were implemented to Independence Hall.

The exterior of the women’s bathroom includes both braille on sign and an automatic door opener.                                 Courtesy of Madison McClure

Those who utilize the building can give their best efforts to accommodate, but it is ultimately up to The Ohio State University to adjust to their students, based on their various abilities and learning styles. The university needs to take every student’s needs and unique disabilities into account. By doing so and implementing the simple accommodations discussed throughout this audit, the university could achieve much greater accessibility for disabled individuals, and lead to greater learning outcomes and student satisfaction overall.