In Depth

Andover Meets ADA and State Requirements for Facilities; OPP Will Renovate Bulfinch and Pearson Within the Next Five Years for Accessibility

While all buildings on Phillips Academy’s campus are not fully handicap accessible, they are compliant with both the federal and state laws. Both of these laws have several subsets, but they don’t necessarily overlap. Due to these inconsistencies, conflicts sometimes occur between state and federal compliance rules. There are different accessibility regulations depending on the type of building. Academic buildings and residential facilities have different expectations from the state and the federal governments. The laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are stricter than the federal laws. Regarding the handicap accessibility policies in Massachusetts, Attorney E. James Perullo of Bay State Legal Services, LLC said, “My belief is that on a statewide basis Massachusetts is more liberal on the [handicap accessibility] issue and is one of the more handicapped-stringent states, meaning that I think Massachusetts enacts more laws to protect handicapped persons.” The Massachusetts Architectural Accessibility Board updates and enforces regulations. Andover constantly consults lawyers, and the government to make sure it is always in code. “If you comply with the state, usually you comply with the federal rules,” said Michael Williams, Director of Facilities at OPP. In 1990, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) established laws regulating construction. Facilities built before the regulations were put into place do not have to meet the standard. If these buildings are renovated, however, they must comply with laws. Williams said, “If you leave a building untouched then you don’t have to do anything to it.” The only inaccessible academic buildings on campus are Pearson and Bulfinch — they have not been renovated since 1990. Renovations of both buildings are planned to take place within the next three to five years to allow for full accessible. Though older buildings such as Pearson and Bulfinch do not need to be completely compliant, federal laws (specifically the ADA) require that they need to be have “reasonable accommodation.” With regard to residential facilities, a five percent plan has been put into effect. This means five percent of the units in the buildings need to be accessible. At Andover there are 197 accessible beds out of a total 800 beds, almost 25 percent. Buildings and paths on campus pose problems for students. However, some students recognize the school’s attempts to accommodate them. Students with temporary disabilities said that they were occasionally late for classes. Students said that their teachers were generally very sympathetic and understanding. Alex Cope ’09 said that the only class he had trouble accessing while temporarily injured was English in Bulfinch Hall. His teacher was willing to move the class to the first floor so that it was more accessible for him. Farah Dahya ’08 said that “it was fine” navigating campus on crutches. William Thompson-Butler ’09 said, “Most of the buildings around campus are accessible to people who are handicapped, you just have to go around a longer route to get where you need to.” He said that the school “provides ramps and such so that they are more easily accessible.” Cope said, “I think they do as best a job as that they can, the only limitation is being such a large school, which they can’t really do anything about.” ?Cope suggested that the school get elevators for Bulfunch, one of the only inaccessible academic buildings on campus. Taylor Smith ’10 said, “Getting into Bulfinch and Sam Phil was difficult because there are so many stairs everywhere.” Andover, with consultants from the state, took initiative by instituting a campus-wide Comprehensive Access Plan. These consultations in the late 1980’s through the mid 1990’s led to a modified approach and permanent time line. “The school continues to invest time into making accessibility better. The school tailors accessibility to the specific requirements of people here,” said Williams. He continued, “The school suits particular needs.” Andover has made progress in the past several years. Williams said, “We’re in a pretty good spot. We’re pretty far along. Could it be better? Yes, but we’re in good shape.” Failure to comply with such regulations can result in fines of up to $1000 per day. The Massachusetts Office of Disability (MOD) policy is that public buildings must be, “accessible to, functional for and safe for use by persons with disabilities”. When Andover renovated Cochran Chapel in 1999, the school received a variance from the state. The variance allowed for the chapel to have a side entrance that was handicap accessible to respect the historical integrity of the building. Rob Buka contributed reporting.