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A College of the Canyons ADA Update

| News | September 12, 2019

Edel Alonso wants answers, and when they’re not forthcoming she feels frustrated.

This has been a norm for Alonso, a College of the Canyons trustee who won election in 2016 running on a platform of greater transparency and accountability.

A recent example is she received a report on campus safety and found it incomplete. Missing, she said, was a definitive decision on whether to arm campus security or hire police officers – a point she and the board have discussed for years without resolution. She also wanted a report on on-campus security cameras, their number, their locations and who’s reviewing the footage; and is the outdoor lighting sufficient to guarantee student safety.

Currently, she is having great difficulty getting any information from the administration on how far along the school is with its ADA Transition Plan.

The plan, the result of a settlement from a lawsuit a former disabled student filed in 2013, requires the school to fix the more than 6,000 examples of noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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The current plan, which sits in the library, lists projects that were supposed to be completed by the last day of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, but it’s not updated. Other projects have deadlines as far as December 31, 2030.

Board president Michael Berger and school spokesman Eric Harnish said in May that the board would receive a full update from Vice President of Facilities, Planning, Operations and Construction Jim Schrage in August, but that did not happen.

On Wednesday, Harnish emailed to say the school is, at the end of this month, scheduled to finish Phase 1, which focuses on replacing doors door hardware, including seals, hinges, handles, and frames; and installing automatic openers on doors that could not otherwise be retrofitted.

Planning for Phase 2, which started earlier this year and addresses access and paths of travel, including parking lots and walkways is nearly complete, Harnish said. The plans will be submitted to the Department of the State Architect before the end of the year, and construction will begin following approval, which Harnish said previously has taken 20 months, meaning construction couldn’t begin until May 2021.

Planning for a third phase, which will address bathrooms and disabled seating in public areas, will commence after DSA approves Phase 2, Harnish said.

In July and August, Harnish emailed to say no update meeting was scheduled, but last week he emailed to say that the board, attorneys and administration are working to find a mutually agreeable time for a special meeting. It would not be part of a regularly scheduled board meeting.

For Alonso, it won’t be soon enough.

“That’s been one of my pet peeves,” she said. She personally counted the number of non-compliant examples to be 6,859.

It’s not that she’s completely in the dark. She says that during board meetings, items such as construction change orders come before the board for approval. She is told that these will comply with the ADA suit.

“But I don’t get a full picture,” she said. “I need numbers. What are we completing? I want some way to measure the progress, but I have not received that.”

When she pushes, she is often told progress is being made and she will eventually get the data she seeks. Then when she doesn’t get it, she asks again – and is told the same thing.

“There is a reluctance to have the administration questioned in any way,” she said. “‘The administration has done a good job. We should place our trust with them. By the time they get the information to us, they’ve done all the legwork and we should just agree to it because they’ve always made good decisions’ — I believe that’s the general attitude.”

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get more specific data,” she said. “I don’t know why that’s so unreasonable.”

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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