Providing Greater Campus Accessibility through GIS

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For students with mobility issues, being unaware of the best routes to their classes can make a wrong turn become a late attendance. What is a student to do when resources identifying accessible pathways aren’t as readily available as they could be?

This is a problem that I felt could be tackled on a smaller scale at my own college, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, while working in tandem with their Disability Services Office.

The intersection of geospatial information and accessibility is an often underutilized function on college campuses, but its integration is essential if educational institutions are going to acclimate to the greater diversity of the modern student body. I found that through the creation of web map applications in ArcGIS, it’s possible to provide new and easily updated navigational information for students with mobility challenges.

The solution I conducted had three major points. The first being the creation of a base map detailing pathways throughout the campus; with wheelchair accessible walkways being highlighted in easily visible blue lines to display all available routes. Students could use these lines to find the route most convenient for their schedule and once located, points designating entryways provide further information.

As I conducted my research for this application, I discovered aspects of these entryways that hadn’t been taken into account by the university’s standard accessibility map. This included details such as high foot traffic areas or which entrance had the closest proximity to elevators, consequently interacting with these locations firsthand is recommended.

Secondly, once the base map had been completed, a separate web map application was made to present the data. From this, the creation of a QR code allows students to quickly scan and open the app in minutes.

Finally, drafting an idea of placement plans for the QR code was required. Prominent locations with internet access were the primary spots for this project’s first wave of implementation. It was also critical to place all access spots at the signage height recommended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design.

As with any product, keeping the line of communication open between the consumer and those responsible for its maintenance is crucial. New information generated from campus renovations and comments from individuals who use the app will serve to enhance the system. So while this is a new and relatively simplistic application for Kutztown’s Disability Services, it maintains the propensity to evolve.

I would encourage other colleges to consider implementing a similar concept in their campus environments, to better assist students with mobility issues and bring greater cognizance to student diversity.