Things to Know…
As this is an accessibility audit, we want to define terms for you that are key to this blog, and that you may not be familiar with. The term “accessibility” in our own words is an adjective that describes something- whether that be a space or a thing- that is equally capable of being usable to all.
Thompson Library at Ohio State University was built from 1910-1913, but was refurbished from 2006-2009. It has 11 floors, including floors of just stacks, but also many study areas for students and faculty to utilize. In this audit, our central focus is on the accessibility of the atrium and ground floor of the building.
The entrance to the atrium consists of one set of two double doors, followed by another set. These doors, although they may appear wide enough, can get cramped easily. Thompson Library is a popular place among students and faculty, so it can get extremely busy during certain times of the day and times of the semester. Afternoons are busy when students want to take a study break in between their classes, as well as early evenings when students go to finish their homework and study for upcoming exams. Especially during midterms as well, these doors cannot squeeze through as many people as they should. This creates an accessibility problem for many, including those who may use walking or transportation devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc. Upon entering the doors, when going straight ahead there is also a set of book detectors. These appear to be narrow and could be seen as inaccessible to many.
The lounge area is to the left when walking through the entrance. In general, this space is accessible. It contains tables, chairs, couches, and its main feature is the IT Help Desk, which is also known as the Buckeye Bar. Students can come to the desk for free and receive help with their technology devices-so on the surface it is accessible to OSU students. The IT Help Desk is in a small, glass enclosed space with a desk, or counter rather, that is high up and out of reach for someone who is shorter in height or who is in a wheelchair. It would be difficult for a technician to show a customer (described in the last sentence) their corrections on their device with a counter that is out of reach.
Ground Floor Area
After walking through the book detectors, there are a few other components to the ground floor…
Computer Lab Area
The computer lab has several rows of chairs and desks, with computers available for students to use. The desks are at an appropriate height, and the chairs that roll are adjustable, and they can roll away easily to accommodate for different heights and wheelchair users. The space between each row is wide, and the area is openly connected to the rest of the atrium. The fact that there is no door to this area makes access to the entrance easier.
The ground floor has an elevator that goes to all 11 floors. The elevator is spacious and wide, however the location of it is a bit difficult to find when first entering the building. It is hidden back in a hallway area.
Restrooms and Drinking Fountains
The ground floor has two sets of restrooms; one for men and one for women. Each restroom has 6 stalls and 1 handicapped stall, which has grab bars and adequate space inside. The sinks are at an appropriate height, as well as the paper towel dispensers. The drinking fountains are located outside of the restrooms, and one is lower than the other, making it accessible for wheelchair users, children, or those who may be shorter. What may pose an issue with the restrooms is the fact that there are neither family style restrooms or gender neutral restrooms.
The entire library contains many different study rooms that accommodate groups of around 2-12. The study rooms on the ground floor contain a large table and chairs with a whiteboard on one of the walls. The majority of the space is taken up by the table, and it would be extremely difficult for a wheelchair, walker, crutch, etc. user to maneuver around the room. There would also be issues with writing on the whiteboard, as it is mounted high on the wall. A highlight of these spaces is that each room has a sign with the room numbers in print and in braille!
Lighting and Signs
The lighting in the main area of the ground floor area is natural lighting, as there are large windows on the ceiling allowing light into the space. There are also dim lights, which is nice for when natural light is not available. However, this could cause problems for people who do not have perfect vision, especially at night time. The signs and directories in this area also have a small font, which can be hard to read unless you are up close to the sign.
For those who maintain this space, we would recommend they make sure this space is accessible as possible. This includes making sure the carpets are flat at the entrances, making sure nothing is blocking the entrances to the study rooms, and making sure there is always adequate lighting in the building. For those who will design and maintain similar spaces in the future, we recommend they make wider doors, especially if that place will be accessed as much as Thompson Library. Along with wider doors, if there is some type of security visitors have to go through such as the book detectors at Thompson Library, they should also be wider. Both of these things will allow for easier travel in and out of the building. If there are going to be commonly accessed spaces in the building, we recommend that these spaces be made spacious and easy to navigate. Also, the fonts on signs and directories should be made larger so they are easier to read. All of these recommendations will go a long way in helping make sure the building is able to be accessed by as many people as possible! It is important to educate everyone involved in designing and maintaining this spaces on the American with Disabilities Act and other things that will help make the space more accessible. For those using this space, we would recommend using the accessible spaces, and if you do not feel like the space is accessible to let someone know. You can get a group of people together and talk with Ohio State administration about how you feel about this space. There is power in numbers, let your voice and opinions be heard!
Audit by: Hannah McKenzie, Katie Boehm, and Josh Heiferling
Pictures by: Hannah McKenzie