A sense for accessibility
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 01:01
After submitting technology resource fund proposals and navigating financial concerns, Oregon State University Disability Access Services went ahead with a two-year trial run to show OSU visitors electronically how many wheelchair and ADA accessible parking spaces are available on campus.
Over winter break, OSU installed 75 sensors on campus. Filled spaces with the installed sensors relay information to an application made by Streetline Inc. titled “Parker.” Aside from Internet access, it can be installed as an application for smartphones and tablets.
Parker shows how many spaces are available in each lot, more specifically showing if there are more than four spaces or less than two spaces. The application will also provide turn-by-turn directions to the desired parking lots.
“We tried to secure as many parking spaces on campus as we could,” said Gabe Merrell, associate director of the office of equity and inclusion and president of OSU’s accessibility committee. “There was widespread interest in the project.”
The project is a joint effort between Transit and Parking Services, Facilities Services, Disability Access Services and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Disability Access Services covered the costs of the trial, under discussion since fall term. The sensors were placed carefully, accounting for projects like the Student Experience Center, which will eliminate parking spaces next to the Memorial Union.
Workers installed the sensors with minimal disturbance, only removing small, fist-sized discs of pavement in the spaces to make room for the sensors. According to Merrell, the application will show students parking lots they might not have even known about.
“This isn’t only for convenience, but can also be seen as a potential sustainability initiative, minimizing the amount of time people have to drive for to find spaces,” Merrell said. “[Streetline, Inc.] even touted that on their website.”
Jeffery Evans, president of Oregon State University’s Able Student Alliance, voiced his reservations about the parking sensors.
“It could be useful,” Evans said. “However, university staff has proven that it doesn’t know what an ADA-compliant parking space is. So I’m not sure how reliable the data will be. They never consulted [Able Student Alliance] when designing the program.”
According to Evans, the university has not spent enough money or time on ADA accomodations.
“This concerns us because over the last three years the university has devoted a paltry amount of money on highly visible and disruptive improvements that have done little to improve accessibility on campus,” Evans said.
Evans voiced his disapproval of projects, including $65 million spent on the Linus Pauling Science Center, $25 million on the Hallie Ford Center and $50 million into Furman Hall, which are not fully compliant with ADA standards.
While the Merrell and the accessibility committee overseeing the sensors plan to survey students over the trial period, using the feedback to decide on the sensors’ future.
“This is something that could be useful if it’s cost effective for the university to look at,” Merrell said. “Later we might be able to show students space availability in spaces other than accessible spaces.”
Jack Lammers, news editor
On Twitter @jacklammers