Published: Sep. 6, 2012 at 10:16 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2012 at 12:32 AM CDT
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Since its signing in 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), has provided standards and codes for accessibility in public places. After failing to meet those codes over a decade ago, McNeese State University in Lake Charles says they constantly work to make sure that doesn't happen again.
According to court documents, it was in 2001 that a student with disabilities claimed she injured herself exiting a bathroom in the Holbrook Student Union. Bringing a civil rights lawsuit against McNeese for a violation of ADA code, the university settled with the student for $400,000 and six years of free tuition. More than a lawsuit, it was a wake up call for McNeese.
"One of the things we learned was that in many of the attempts that had been made over the years to make things up to code and accessible, we were off," said Communications Director for the university, Candace Townsend. "We might have been off by a few inches, or with ramps, by a couple of degrees ... but that all makes a difference."
Since then, they've made it their mission to make sure the campus is in compliance.
"Since 2009, projects that are currently underway, we will have spent over $7 million dollars in a combination of university and state funds through capital outlay appropriation to try to bring all of the campus up to ADA standards," said Townsend.
Those funds can be seen through a number of current and upcoming renovations around campus.
"Our new parking garage is being built to ADA standards, the new residence hall is being built to ADA standards, the seed building is being built to ADA standards," Townsend said. "So everything we do that's coming online now is certainly going to more than meet the standards."
While being mandated doesn't hurt to keep them on track, Townsend said it's their goal to make the campus like home to everyone, regardless of a disability or not.
"It's something that we want to do to make our students feel welcome. To make all students feel welcome," Townsend said.
According to Townsend, maintaining the standards is an ongoing process, but a plan they have set currently outlines the campus being 100 percent accessible by 2016.