Officials plan for disabled parking

Monday, May 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:11 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Missouri basketball season ticket holders could be asked to park farther away from Mizzou Arena as a way to increase the number of spots available for people with disabilities.

Designated spaces in the arena’s south parking lot — currently used by suite and loge level ticket-holders — might be set aside for disabled fans under a series of proposals discussed at a recent meeting to examine arena accessibility. Other issues covered at the meeting, attended by students, faculty and representatives of the athletics department, were student seating and emergency evacuation of the arena.

Lee Henson, MU’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, said the athletics department will be reviewing the parking situation in coming months and meeting with students to discuss the options.

Henson said even though Mizzou Arena complies with federal regulations under the ADA, the shortage of accessible parking for the disabled is an important “customer service issue.” The ADA, passed in 1990, eliminates discriminatory action against people with disabilities and mandates accommodation in employment, government, transportation and construction guidelines to provide accessibility for people with mobility impairments.

About 80 parking spaces are set aside for people with disabilities to the left of the arena’s main entrance. A number of solutions are being considered to increase that number, Henson said. However, designating more parking spaces in the south lot for people with disabilities could have financial consequences, he said.“I believe season-ticket holders pay a premium to park in those closer end lots,” Henson said.

Inside the arena, students with mobility impairments who use wheelchairs are unable to sit with other students. The only accessible seating is isolated, located near the top of the building or courtside.

The bleacher-style student section is located at the west end of the court.

Integrating the seating for students would require the construction of new ramps in the student section, costing $7,000 to $10,000, said Tad Dunn, associate athletic director for game operations.

Concern over the accessibility of campus facilities has increased with the number of students with disabilities admitted to MU increasing. More than 1,930 students have disabilities, according to MU’s Office of Disability Services — up from 230 students in the 1997-98 school year.

Jerry Hitzhusen, associate professor in the MU Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said the increase in the number of students with disabilities is also due to new federal definitions of disability, which now include students with learning disabilities, health issues and psychological problems.

“What people don’t understand is that you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to be disabled,” Hitzhusen said, “and that’s something the public needs to be educated on.”

Henson said that he believes the number of students with mobility impairments

has increased significantly in the past three years because of the increasing enrollment at MU and, to a lesser degree, because of the popularity of the men’s Tiger Wheelchair Basketball team. Henson expects even more students with disabilities in the future.

“It’s quite possible that MU will be enrolling more veterans with disabilities as well,” Henson said.

Phil Shocklee, associate director of campus facilities, said that MU has spent more than $10 million to modify buildings on campus since the disabilities act was passed. The money was used to widen doors and to install automatic doors, accessible drinking fountains and ramps. Accessible restrooms, improved auditorium seating and improvements to wheelchair lifts and elevators were other projects.

MU has also spent $180,000 on disability-assisting technology— voice activated software, magnification software and mathematical software — since 1990, said Abbie O’Sullivan, the university’s computing sites manager.

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