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Students complete ADA survey of NMSU campus

Nine New Mexico State University students evaluated 2.9 million square feet of the university's buildings for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) over the summer.

New Mexico State University students, from left, Robert Holguin, Jose Chavez, Jeremy Randlett and Ashleigh Wilson measure a ramp inside the Educational Services Center for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

een 10 years since the university has conducted an ADA priority survey," said Richard Kaselow, interim director of NMSU's Office of Facilities Planning and Construction (OFSPLAN).

"ADA changes a lot. Now some of the guidelines deal with people who have arthritis," said Sonya Cooper, associate professor of engineering technology and the students' supervisor for the project.

With each building they evaluated, the students completed a lengthy checklist before inputting their data onto a Web site that was developed for their use. The checklists addressed various ADA guidelines such as having a sufficient number of handicapped parking and easy access to building entrances, restrooms and built-in furniture. The students also provided recommendations on how to improve buildings and projected the cost of those renovations.

NMSU contracted ASA Architects Studio in Las Cruces and Architectural Research Consultants (ARC), a full-service architectural firm in Albuquerque, for the project. ARC provided the students with training and other support. ASA Architects Studio coordinated the entire project and is responsible for compiling and submitting final recommendations to the university. When the project is done, recommendations from the two firms and the students will be given to the OFSPLAN office for review.

"We will use the documents to prioritize the ADA improvements," Kaselow said. "We'll review the information with the NMSU Disability Advisory Board to get their recommendations on how best to spend the money, which was allocated for ADA improvements by the State Legislature."

Three of the students, who are disabled, provided recommendations and input from real-life experiences for the project. Those students are criminal justice major Robert Holguin, a sophomore from Las Cruces; electrical engineering major Keaton Mullis, a sophomore from Las Cruces; and Ivan Lopez, a public administration graduate student from Nogales in Sonora, Mexico.

Lopez, who is blind, walked with the group to show them what could be a burden to blind students and campus visitors, such as subtle curbs and low tree branches near sidewalks. Holguin and Mullis, who are mobility impaired, were able to demonstrate to the students the amount of space needed to complete certain tasks and maneuvers in a wheelchair.

Other students who worked on the project are civil engineering major Abenicio Fernandez, a senior from Raton; civil engineering major Ashleigh Wilson, a senior from Clovis; civil engineering technology major Jose Chavez, a senior from Roswell; civil engineering technology major Reece Green, a junior from Deming; civil engineering technology major Rusty Payne, a junior from Edinburg, Texas; and civil engineering technology major Jeremy Randlett, a senior from Las Cruces.

"All of the students have a good work ethic," Cooper said. "They have achieved an incredible learning curve in a short amount of time."

"It seemed appropriate to hire students who actually use the campus to do the survey," Kaselow said. "It allows the students to see their campus in a new light."