Slow to fix accessibility issues?


Victoria Ivie

A sign posted to the King Hall elevator, informing students it is out of order. The South elevators were down for more than three weeks.

Victoria Ivie, Managing Editor

Broken elevators, painful trips up flights of stairs and no solution in sight for weeks on end. Cal State LA students with disabilities say these are some of the accessibility issues affecting them on campus.

King Hall, Salazar Hall and Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Building are among some of the buildings with frequent accessibility issues, according to five students that were interviewed. The students reported that the most common issues with accessibility on campus are broken elevators, broken ADA push buttons along with their automated doors, expired or expiring elevator permits and classrooms incompatible with students with disabilities. 

“I take the bus to school and that Metro elevator is broken, usually a couple times a semester, and has a lot of stairs,” said Carmen Conde, a social work major. “A lot of the time there isn’t even a notice. That one is the worst one because if it breaks down, you either have to get on another bus or take the stairs. If you can’t go up the stairs, you can’t go to class. You can’t access your own school.”

Conde said she is privileged to not need accessibility accommodations but always notices how often that elevator is down. Out of the three to four days she takes the bus to campus, Conde said it is down at least every other week.

The elevator Conde and other sources have complaints about at the transit station is not owned or serviced by Cal State LA, according to Cal State LA’s Communications and Public Affairs office.

“When there is a problem, we communicate with Metrolink on behalf of our community and post signage,” the university told the UT.

Metrolink did not have a statement to give but told the UT that they would be making a report to operations to get the elevator inspected.

Sophia Gutierrez is a social work major who is affected by some of Cal State LA’s accessibility issues.

“Sometimes when I enter classrooms it can be difficult accessibility wise because the chairs are pushed toward the doors so it makes the walkway more narrow,” Gutierrez said. “As a wheelchair user, it’s hard to get through most of the time.”

Gutierrez has also seen elevators down for weeks at a time, especially the right-side King Hall elevators.

King Hall is one of the buildings with the most frequent elevator issues, according to all students interviewed. Luckily, King Hall is also one of the few buildings with another set of elevators in it.

But what happens if these issues occur in other buildings that only have one set of elevators and they are down? Disabled students could potentially miss class due to an inability to get there or have to go through a lot of pain to get there.

The A Wing elevator of King Hall is set to be serviced May 1, according to the university. The university also warns that the elevator may be down sporadically until that servicing date.

“Because King Hall is an older building, replacement elevator parts are hard to find and it can take many weeks for them to arrive,” the university told the UT. “Recent supply chain problems may lengthen the time. These factors contribute to delays in repairs.”

For some disabled students, these delays can result in a lot of inconvenience.

“I had an injury a couple years ago so at times it’s very painful to go upstairs,” said Ann Fernandez, a social work major. “It gets quite painful after a couple flights of stairs. It makes it difficult to concentrate in class when I’m in so much pain.”    

Fernandez, who said she has muscle problems in both knees from a previous injury, suffers from chronic pain.

“Especially with the elevators, it’s a safety issue and it is disheartening that they are down so much,” Fernandez said. “The university takes so long to fix the elevators or anything that is broken. I feel like they could have used the year we weren’t on campus during the pandemic to fix a lot of these accessibility issues and make everything more up-to-date so they’d break less. They added all these steps for COVID safety so I just feel like they could have also worked on these things that are breaking down so frequently.”

Despite being considered an emergency item on the Facilities Services own website, multiple UT staff and sources saw the A Wing King Hall elevators down for at least three weeks. “Elevator malfunctions” are even acknowledged as “conditions that immediately affect the continued performance of academic, student, or administrative functions.”

UT staff also saw the automated doors leading into King Hall were not operable for at least four weeks before they were fixed.

Both of these issues have been resolved as of this article’s completion.

Fernandez also finds that the lack of proper lighting at night is another safety issue.

“The school is slow to fix these accessibility issues but are quick to take our money,” she said.

While Fernandez has a lot of love for Cal State LA and it was her choice of university for social work, she feels disappointed with how they have been handling numerous accessibility issues, including their limitation of online classes.

“I have trouble getting to classes sometimes, especially when the elevators are out,” said Yvonne Blair, a psychology major. “I deal with that on a weekly basis so I can’t even imagine how that would be for someone in a wheelchair. It’s crazy the elevators are out just about every week.”

Blair has a bad right knee that has undergone multiple surgeries as well as having osteoarthritis, all of which makes using the stairs painful. She sees elevators down most often in Salazar Hall and King Hall. 

“It makes it more difficult,” Blair said. “I feel embarrassed by the time I get to class because it makes me late. If I have to climb the stairs, it takes me way longer than it would other people.”

Blair also notices a lack of accessible seating in classrooms, especially King Hall.

“The university really needs to update the elevators,” she said. “The ramps, too. They are often too steep or narrow. I think they need to put more lifts around campus. When things are out of service, I think the university needs to be better about addressing those issues and getting people to come out and fix it right away because I’ve seen things be out of service for weeks on end.”   

Elevators on campus are routinely serviced and are safe, according to the university statement to the UT.

Many students have complained about expired or soon to expire elevator permits as well. They also see the elevators breaking down as a result of expired elevators.

“Posted permits in some elevators on campus are expired due to a backlog in the state’s inspection process,” the university told the UT. “A new permit cannot be issued until the state fire marshal and the state’s elevator tech inspect our elevators. Because of their backlog, they have been unable to complete the inspection and issue new permits.”

Students are encouraged to report problems such as broken down elevators to Facilities Services using the iServiceDesk or calling 323-343-3440 during business hours. 

Notifying Facilities Services will help expedite repairs, according to Cal State LA’s statement to the UT.

Disabled students can also reach out to the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) if they have questions or concerns. They can be contacted at (323) 343- 3140 or in the Student Services Building.

While the university told the UT that OSD could be contacted for campus navigation, the OSD phone operators said they did not know how many buildings on campus have more than one elevator or what buildings those would be. The director of facilities services was also unavailable for comment or clarification.

“The University is working to ensure that all automatic doors, ADA buttons, and elevators are operable,” the university told the UT.