Burruss Hall, which houses the university’s main administrative offices, is more accessible than ever now that handrails have been installed in front of the building.

Built in 1936, Burruss contains a 3,003-seat auditorium where major events, such as commencement, presidential speeches, concerts, and art shows are held. It also serves as the main administration building on the Blacksburg campus.

In January, work was completed on the installation of 121 linear feet of handrails. In addition to helping people with mobility impairments, the handrails also allow individuals to move up the four flights of steps from Drillfield Drive to the building entrance more easily.

The project, which was spearheaded by the university’s Disability Alliance and Caucus, cost about $83,000 and took about four weeks to complete after funding was secured. The handrails are made from cast iron base, forged steel posts, and bronze.

“The project signals the university's willingness to consider disability concerns as concerns related to diversity and inclusion,” said Ashley Shew, co-founder and treasurer of the Disability Alliance Caucus and an assistant professor of science and technology in society.

“Disabled people make up the largest minority, one that often is forgotten as we discuss what it means to have a diverse and open society. Disability itself is a diverse category, and it's one of the few minority groups any person can join at any time.”

“This is a great step forward in our continuing efforts to be inclusive, accessible, and welcoming to all individuals who visit our campus,” said Pamela Vickers, director of ADA and accessibility services in the Office for Equity and Accessibility.

This project is one of several initiatives in recent years designed to improve accessibility on campus.

An ongoing project to install two new curb ramps and upgrade two additional curb ramps on Stanger Street will create an improved experience for wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments crossing Stranger Street near McBryde Hall. The ramps will include truncated domes that signal individuals who are blind or have a vision impairment that there is a change in surface, such as traversing from the sidewalk into the street.

Three of the four crosswalks have been completed and the fourth is scheduled to be completed in February.

Last year the university launched an online Physical Barrier Reporting Form, which allows community members to report any physical barriers they come across on campus. The online form is anonymous and easy to use. Users can upload photos.

Also in 2016, significant improvements were made to the online interactive campus map to improve the user experience and more easily identify accessible parking spaces, elevators, and accessible pathways.

University planners are working to develop a master plan that will include possible opportunities to enhance accessibility in the outdoor environment on the university's Blacksburg campus.

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