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Survey to check all college rooms

An inspection of every room on the campuses of the state's nine public universities is being conducted to determine how accessible they are to people with physical disabilities.

The University of Florida's College of Architecture, under the direction of interior design professor Jim West, is overseeing the inspection mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Fifteen faculty members and 80 students from several state universities are participating in the survey, which will examine more than 31- million square feet of classroom, office, service facility and building space.

West said 75,000 to 100,000 rooms will be examined.

"Basically, the act says that any service that any governmental agency offers must be accessible to anyone with a disability who would want to or is entitled to use that service," he said.

"That includes students, staff, faculty, even parents of students that come to visit. Everyone has to have an equal chance to avail themselves of the service," West said.

In most cases, areas not now accessible to people with disabilities will have to be changed to give them access.

Problems uncovered so far have ranged from minor ones, like door thresholds more than three-quarters of an inch high, to major ones, such as lack of elevators in buildings and inaccessible entrances.

In most cases, making areas accessible will be a relatively easy task, at least at UF, West said. But some areas will prove more difficult.

"The act calls for either the structures to be accessible or the programs to be changed to allow people with disabilities the same access that anyone else has," he said. "In some cases, it's more cost effective to change the programs than it is to change the building."

For example, if a particular department offered classes only in a building that is inaccessible to a student who uses a wheelchair, then the University could either build a ramp into the building or move some of the classes offered in that building to an accessible location, he said.

West has until June 1993 to complete his study of the nine state universities.

UF is conducting the surveys in Gainesville and at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

The University of South Florida in Tampa is examining its own campus as well as the University of Central Florida's campus, while Florida International University in Miami is examining that campus and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Florida A & M is surveying its own campus, Florida State University in Tallahassee and the University of West Florida in Pensacola.