Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


The run-around



When I approach an automatic door with a broken handicapped button, I have to bang into the door with my wheelchair’s metal footrest several times. Most people don’t even offer to open the door. They just stare at me as I attempt to enter.

This is a big problem for students who are wheelchair-bound. When a door does not work, we have to find another door that does work, which can be time-consuming.

Most of the doors on campus that I come across have buttons that work from the outside but not from the inside, or vice versa.

Johnny Maloney, a senior majoring in counseling, experiences this problem in the Boca campus’s College of Education building. He has to use the main entrance to get into the building and the back entrance to get out.

Maloney has reported this problem 18 times to both the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) and Physical Plant since he started attending FAU. Nothing has been done.

If there is not another door nearby, the only way to enter or exit a building with a broken button is to force the door open. This could break the wheelchair in various ways.

“I ram into the doors and risk breaking the footplate of my wheelchair,” said Danielle Agrillo, a junior communication major.

I find it odd that in FAU the only automatic doors that never seem to break down on campus are the ones on the Boca campus’s library doors, which have smaller buttons compared other doors on campus. This makes me wonder whether the smaller push buttons are stronger, or whether Physical Plant mainly focuses on that one area of the school.

Last spring in my Writing for Management class, we had to write a report on something we wanted to change. My topic of course was poor maintenance of the automatic doors on campus.

I surveyed four people in the Office for Students with Disabilities. All of them confirmed that they have also had problems with the doors and most of them did not know where or to whom they should report the broken buttons.

I obtained all of the requests to fix doors during the 2009-2010 school year from Physical Plant, which maintains FAU’s facilities. The doors break down most often in the months of September and January, when students come back to school.

In my report I came up with three recommendations to help wheelchair-bound students facing the problem of broken buttons.

My first recommendation was to have signs above all buttons with Physical Plant’s contact number. That way, if a student experiences a problem with the doors, they can report it on the spot.

The second recommendation was to have handicapped symbols on the campus map representing where handicapped doors are, so if one breaks down, a student can easily find another one.

My final recommendation was for FAU to have a maintenance committee keep a close eye on the doors. That way, the doors might not break down so frequently.

Despite sharing my ideas, the doors remain as much a problem now as they were a year ago — and they’re going to remain a problem because nobody does anything about it.

I gave my report to OSD only to be told to hand it to the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Committee. When I brought my report to an ADA Committee, I was told that there is a work order form to be filled out when the doors are down.

The only problem is that students cannot fill out a work order.

Physical Plant Director John Singer told me it’s because then they would receive too many requests.

But if nothing is done things will always stay the same.

It reminds me of a quote by James Baldwin, who said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


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    AllisonJun 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Interesting article Joanne. I work at an automatic door company in Ohio, and stumbled across your article while doing research for our company newsletter article about ADA accessibility awareness. Part of a door technician’s job (at least at our company) is to help the customer understand WHY it is crucial to perform regular safety checks on all automatic entrances, and replace wearing parts. Often times the initial cost of an ADA operator can be over $1000 dollars, but they are not as expensive to maintain in the long run if you keep up on maintenance.

    While cost is usually the main reason that repairs are denied, it is the technician’s job to help overcome that obstacle to help the customer see the big picture. You thoughtful article does just that….it is the end user that facilities need to keep in mind when facing maintenance issues. I will be sharing your article with our crew to help them remember WHY they need to take that time talking with customers on service calls. THANKS!!