BOSTON – Boston College has become more difficult to navigate for people with disabilities in recent years, according to former and current students whose complaints have prompted an investigation into whether the school is violating accessibility laws.
Students said in a complaint to the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights that problem spots, including routes that lead only to stairs and doors that don't have automatic openers, force people with disabilities to travel longer routes or navigate through a maze of building hallways and elevators to get across campus.
Things have gotten worse since a recent construction boom on campus, 2000 graduate Adriana Mallozzi, who uses a wheelchair, told The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/1zNI4GT ).
"When I was in school at BC just over 15 years ago, I had better access to buildings on the campus than I do now," she said. "All the new construction has changed the landscape of the campus and did not make it better for people with mobility issues, but made it worse."
The Rev. Raymond Helmick, a theology professor, said that when he needed to use a wheelchair following knee surgery, he found it difficult to get to his third-floor office in a two-year-old building.
"There are a lot of issues, and the school is rather careless about the whole thing," he said.
The university said it is assisting the Department of Education and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board in their reviews.
BC's hilly campus is a challenge, but the university does everything it can to make it easy to navigate, spokesman Jack Dunn said.
The university "during the past 10 years has invested millions of dollars in campus accessibility projects ranging from ramps, disability access routes, and automatic door openers, to dorm room reconfigurations, Braille signs, and audible pedestrian signals," Dunn said.
The federal investigation involves reviewing more than a dozen old, recently renovated and new facilities, including libraries, dormitories, academic buildings and a parking garage, according to an Education Department spokesman.
The inquiry is also exploring whether administrators discriminated against people with disabilities by taking improper steps to address accessibility issues.
Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com