Speaking Out

The following letter was sent to President Judith Rodin and Almanac for publication. (see response below)

Unlock the Doors

Ten years ago, in July 1990, the US Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Its provisions went into effect in a staged fashion. They all applied by the time I came to the Penn campus in August of 1992, and certainly by the time you took office, in the summer of 1994.

A professor in another department mentioned he saw me moving very fast to get to the class I teach. To his comment, I replied, "Sometimes I move as fast as Judith Rodin." His response? "Nobody moves as fast as Judy Rodin!" Would that it were so, in this area.

Can you move fast to have Houston Hall fully accessible at the time it opens? Can you move fast to get the electronic door openers operating at Logan Hall and Williams? Can you move fast to get the elevator panels lowered in Williams?

How fast can you modify those Locust Walk buildings so that Penn students with mobility impairments can do more than go up to the first step and stop?

How fast can you open all the locked doors at Penn that no one knows how to open, so people with mobility impairments can get to lectures and meetings and special events? How fast can you build a ramp to the main entrance of Van Pelt, or open the locked door at the Rosengarten Reserve entrance to all? Before I graduate, so I will be able to explore the library as a scholarly resource?

It's going to take lightening speed to modify those Locust Walk buildings to have them accessible by the fall of 2000. Can you and Penn move that fast?

Please move fast. The law is ten years old, and now is the time for equal access at Penn for the mobility and sensory impaired. Please move fast because you want to see equality of access to the educational benefits of Penn.

And please let me know, because I'm moving fast, too, and I don't expect I'll be here when it's done.

--Sigrid Peterson, ABD Religious Studies; Convener, Penn Students (and Faculty and Staff) with Disabilities (PSWD, or Password, on courses.sas.upenn.edu at Special, logon as "signup," and use "guest" as the password)


Ms. Peterson raises important issues concerning the accessibility of Penn's campus to the disabled, issues that Penn takes extremely seriously. Through our ongoing efforts, Penn has succeeded in making most of the campus accessible to individuals with disabilities. In order to ensure that the Penn community is fully informed with respect to access, we have created the Penn Access Website (http://www.facilities.upenn.edu/mapsBldgs/pennaccess.php3), which provides a ready resource of information and instructions on building access.

In addition to what we have already accomplished, Penn is continually working to increase the accessibility of our campus. This past year Penn installed automatic doors at DRL, Van Pelt and in Sansom Place West. We are making elevators accessible in Sansom Place East and in DRL. Restrooms were made accessible in Van Pelt, DRL and GRW. New construction on Sansom Place provided ramping, thereby making Sansom Place fully accessible.

Perelman Quad, including Houston Hall, will be fully accessible when it opens. Logan Hall and Williams Hall are already accessible, along with a great number of other buildings. We are currently in the process of determining what measures should be taken to make the Locust Walk programs accessible. Within the next six months additional renovations will be made to Moore restrooms and DRL restrooms and doorways.

Despite these efforts, we realize that there is more work to do. We know that not all campus buildings are accessible at this time. As we continue our efforts, we are responsive to any request that a program be provided in an accessible location. If a class or event is scheduled in a non-accessible location, Penn will quickly move the location of that event or class in order to avoid creating a hardship for any individual. The Program for People With Disabilities, located in the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, exists to address disabilities issues, including access issues, as expeditiously and effectively as reasonably possible.

As technology and methods of increasing accessibility improve, Penn will continually improve. In the past ten years, since the Americans With Disabilities Act became law, Penn has moved a very long way. Although we are in compliance with all applicable legal requirements, our goal is to continue to improve. We will continue striving to reach that goal.

--Omar Blaik, Vice President Facilities Services

Actively Observing MLK Day

I applaud Dr. Rodin's and the University Administration's decision. I sincerely hope that all members of the University community, don't just view this as another day off but use this as an opportunity to actively participate in the various programs that will be offered on campus to commemorate Dr. King. I invite all members of the Penn community to submit any program ideas/suggestions for the MLK 2001 Celebration and Symposium to the following address: lewisj@pobox.upenn.edu.

--Jack B. Lewis, Chair, Executive MLK Planning Committee; Assistant Director, African-American Resource Center

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 31, May 2, 2000