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Each of the following action steps includes specific actions to be undertaken, additional explanatory text, and an estimated timeline for implementation. Projects with longer timelines are generally speaking ongoing and potentially institutionalized practices.

 Plans and Policies

Campus Accessibility Audit

  • Update any current audits of accessibility of campus buildings to reflect current building conditions and estimate costs to bring buildings into compliance with 2010 ADA.
  • Identify additional opportunities to enhance accessibility beyond minimum requirements in areas of high need (such as examining ways to make Gordon Commons more accommodating to students with sensitivities to light and sound).
  • Examine current campus path infrastructure to develop an “Accessible Travel Grid” to ensure ease of access for sidewalks and paths across campus

Vassar already has a general assessment of accessibility barriers on campus, especially with regard to mobility and accessible entrances. However, this assessment lacks information on other types of accessibility barriers as well as cost estimates to help the College prioritize improvements. The accessibility audit will allow us to best appraise how to move forward with a concrete schedule and priorities for accessibility improvements to campus.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: July 2022 - December 2022

Accessible Building Guidelines

  • Develop Accessible Building Guidelines to shape construction and renovation processes moving forward, embedding accessibility further into the campus planning process.
    • A core item for inclusion is waiving the historic exception for 2010 ADA compliance on all major renovations moving forward.

The Green Building Guidelines have been an invaluable tool for setting our campus priorities and ensuring sustainability is at the core of all our major capital projects on campus. By developing a complementary set of guidelines for accessibility, we can ensure that our new construction and major retrofits go beyond ADA requirements toward creating a universally accessible campus for all.

These guidelines will be informed by and expand on work that has already been undertaken. For example, the pandemic gave us an opportunity to add in card access to various entries where the door automatically opened. These changes have enhanced the accessibility to some buildings (such as the College Center front and rear entrances) in ways that should be expanded to other entries. Hands-free opening of doors is not only better for accessibility, but it is also better for the health and security of all users.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - December 2022

Ramp and Sidewalk Clearance

  • Update snow & leaf removal plan for Facilities Operations
  • Improve bike bicycle parking infrastructure
  • Increase education around Safety & Security’s Bike Removal Plan to ensure ramps and sidewalks remain clear year-round.

Convenience should never trump accessibility, and institutional practices need to reflect a commitment to inclusion for all who attend, work, and enjoy Vassar’s campus. Blocking paths of travel by chaining bikes to railings, blocking ramp access, or overlooking clearing ADA designated spaces, others’ rights to be included and have access to buildings and services are impeded.

In particular, snow and leaf removal must be looked at from the perspective of how it may disrupt the path of travel for individuals who use wheelchairs or have mobility issues. In the past when paths and crosswalks were not thoroughly cleared, especially in inclement weather, individuals needed to re-orient their wayfinding to reach their destination.

Changing the practice of chaining bikes to ramps and handrails will be addressed through education and enforcement of campus policy. Adequate and convenient bike racks need to be provided and need to be maintained throughout the year.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: March 2022 - June 2022 (protocol development)

Outreach, Education, and Digital Accessibility

Integrated Accessibility Tools for Online Teaching

  • Integrate an accessibility toolkit into our Moodle learning management system to substantially improve the accessibility of online course materials and facilitate a move towards an eventual standard of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), with an ultimate goal of 100% adoption for all courses.

Several products, such as Blackboard Ally and the Moodle Accessibility Toolkit, can be integrated with Vassar’s learning management system to improve the accessibility of learning materials. These tools support two goals. First, they give instructors the ability to scan their Moodle course sites for accessibility problems and assists them in resolving the issues. Secondly, they can let students automatically generate alternative formats for uploaded materials (such as converting a PDF into an audio file). With active use by instructors and students, these tools can greatly reduce barriers to learning.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - March 2024

Faculty Resources for Accessible Course Design

  • Collect and disseminate resources for accessible course design in the very near term, to be expanded into tailored training and resource toolkits for accessible course design that can be integrated into the rollout of new accessibility support tools for Vassar’s Learning Management System.

Moving towards a goal of Universal Design for Learning in our online course elements requires far more than just offering new software and tools. It will require providing straightforward toolkits for faculty of all backgrounds and disciplines to take steps to make their courses more accessible for all learners. Training and resources will be provided to faculty through the Director for Teaching Development and New Faculty Orientation, as well as via a suite of web resources.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - September 2022 (Initial Design); additional support ongoing

Accessibility Improvements for Web and Online Resources

  • Provide better access to campus accessibility resources through, at a minimum, the following:
    • An enhanced presence on the online campus map
    • A dedicated hub for accessibility resources on the Vassar App
    • A dashboard to track progress towards our accessibility goals.
    • Review and enhance the accessibility of current web and IT offerings.

Almost every member of the Vassar community uses the Vassar website, information technology, and other related services and resources. Ensuring that these are fully accessible is a necessary complement to the work we do to make campus physically accessible.

Making our online resources accessible makes the physical campus more accessible as well. Embedding map information regarding accessible entrances, restrooms, and elevators provides individuals with ease of use and autonomy in orienting individuals to a particular building, classroom, or campus in keeping with universal design practices. When embedded wayfinding information is the standard rather than an add-on or afterthought, it reduces the anxiety associated with planning a visit to an unfamiliar place while reserving the energy needed to enjoy the experience, especially for individuals with disabilities. 

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - September 2022 (Initial Design); additional support ongoing

Voluntary Accessibility Training for All Audiences

  • Develop online, asynchronous training series for students, faculty, staff, and administrators on accessibility topics, potentially accompanied by some form of incentive yet to be determined. Topics could include:
    • Potential barriers to accessibility
    • Aspects of Universal Design for Learning
    • How to create accessible events
    • Gender identity & transgender inclusion

A number of faculty and staff noted in their feedback that they wanted resources to be a better disability ally. Developing voluntary training resources, along with eventual micro-credentialing or other forms of recognition for employees who complete them.

All web resources be clearly organized and readily visible to all campus constituents, with multiple points of entry (from the HR website, Dean of College websites, Dean of Faculty websites) so that it is easy to reach the information and access the resources.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: July 2022 - March 2024

Facility Improvements and Upkeep

Bridge Door Retrofit

  • Add automated paddle door openers to both sides of the main entrances of the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences building

The single-most-frequently cited concern during the feedback process was making the doors of the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences building more accessible - both for the sake of those with disabilities as well as members of the campus population at large. Given its dual roles as both a central academic building and a key thoroughfare for those crossing campus, it was a clear candidate for near-term improvements.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - December 2022

Gender-Neutral Locker Room Conversion at Walker/AFC

  • Provide gender-neutral locker/changing room facilities on an ongoing basis at Walker/AFC to complement gendered facilities

For several years, Vassar has offered gender-neutral restroom facilities in several campus buildings as a complement to single-gender restrooms. However, no commensurate locker room or changing facilities were available in workout/athletic spaces on campus.

For many transgender, metagender, and other non-cisgender individuals, a lack of gender-affirming facilities can make many spaces and activities inaccessible. Ensuring these spaces exist on a permanent basis affirms the College’s commitment to inclusion for all gender identities.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - September 2022

Reservable Private Rooms

  • Add quiet, reservable single-occupancy spaces on campus for teledoc, teletherapy, personal reflection, and other needs in 60-90 minute windows as a complement to existing study spaces.

Over the last two years, remote and online medical, psychiatric, and psychological services have become increasingly common and utilized by the student body. However, finding quiet and private spaces to take advantage of these services can often pose a challenge. Adding reservable private rooms specifically for activities that support physical and mental wellness is an easily achievable way to substantially increase our capacity to connect students with services they need.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - December 2022

Additional Hearing Loops

  • Add hearing loops to 2-3 more classroom and/or lecture spaces, especially spaces already identified for substantial renovation or renewal

As an institution of higher education, providing equitable access to the spoken word is central to our teaching and learning. Reducing barriers to accessibility for hard-of-hearing individuals ensures that our classes, lectures, and public events are open and inclusive to a broader audience. In addition to adding hearing loops for specific spaces, the College will work to better train instructors and lecturers in their use and operation.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: Summer 2022 and Summer 2023

Pilot Program for Expanded Shuttle Service

  • Build on existing shuttle offerings to develop an ongoing daytime shuttle service for students, faculty, staff and administrators.
  • Research different models for longer-term operationalization including both traditional services like a loop as well as newer app-based solutions.

A long-term goal for the College, underscored in the 2011 Landscape Master Plan, is moving towards a more pedestrian-friendly, walkable, and bikeable campus, with the intent to move parking towards the perimeter of campus. While accessible parking spaces will always remain close to campus buildings, expanding shuttle services will make outlying parking more convenient while also improving access for people with limited mobility.

This may be an opportunity for expanded integration into the Vassar App, providing a single point of connection for an expanding suite of accessibility resources.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: March 2022 - March 2024

Signage Standardization Pilot Program

  • In conjunction with the development of the Accessible Building Guidelines, formalize a standard for campus signage and install it in 1-3 buildings

During the feedback process for the Accessibility Plan, concerns were shared about navigation and wayfinding throughout buildings. Traveling inside and through campus buildings can often be a challenge, exacerbated by a lack of consistent and clearly labeled directional, digital, and room signage. Developing a standard for signage moving forward and installing it in 1-3 campus buildings on a pilot basis is an important first step towards a more navigable campus.

Estimated Timeline for Implementation: April 2022 - March 2024

Timeline for Implementation

A chart visualizing the timeline for implementation of the Accessibility Plan, referencing the implementation dates included in the action step descriptions.