Disabled access to Park Union no longer available

By Melanie Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 10, 1996

Kristy Mangos
Arizona Daily Wildcat

John Olson, computer engineering graduate student, and Brian McCracken, family studies sophomore, make their way through the kitchen of the Park Student Union, the only path through which disabled people can get to the second floor. The Pima County Heath Department found the kitchen path in violation of heath codes Friday.


An attempt to clear up a health code violation at the Park Student Union has created a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Friday, the Pima County Health Department inspected the Park Student Union's disabled entrance, which leads to the kitchen, and found it violated Pima County Title 8, which states, "Traffic of unnecessary persons through the food preparation and utensil wash area is prohibited."

Last week, Mike Low, assistant director of the Memorial Student Union, said, "The Health Department and Risk Management are fully aware of the access (at the Park Union) and it is not an issue."

But, Xavier Leon, supervisor of sanitation at the Pima County Health Department, said, "Clearly, going through the kitchen violates our code, which says only authorized personnel are allowed in the kitchen."

The entrance through the kitchen has been the only means of access for disabled persons since the Park Student Union was built in 1952.

To correct the health violation, the UA began prohibiting disabled persons from passing through the kitchen area, which is still the only handicapped-accessible entrance to the second floor.

This puts the university is violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last month, when members of the Associated Students with Disabilities held its meeting on the second floor of the Park Union, members had to enter the building through the loading dock area, which leads to a freight elevator.

The 4-foot-wide hallway to the elevator contained an ice maker, stored kitchen equipment and a bicycle. Inside the elevator, a sign read, "Freight elevator only."

"We're not freight, we're human beings," said Brian McCraken, family studies sophomore and ASD member.

Once on the second floor, the students traveled through the kitchen where food containers, cutting boards, refrigerators and a mop and bucket were along the pathway to the dining area.

"This is not fun for anyone to come through a back door and up a freight elevator ... it is not the best situation for anyone," said Dan Adams, director of the Memorial Student Union.

Adams said the Park Union situation is a complicated issue because it is an immediate problem that has only long-term solutions.

Money is set aside to update areas on campus that do not comply with ADA standards, but there are dozens of places on campus that need the money, he said.

"At times, areas become burning issues and so the money is funneled there," Adams said.

Union officials have looked at installing an elevator at the front entrance.That would cost $100,000.

Union officials said they are concerned about beginning construction at the Park Union because once they receive approval for renovation of the Memorial Student Union, services and personnel will be redirected there.

"We have contacted the university attorneys' office hoping the access is more of an issue and will win out over the concerns of the health department," Adams said.

Leon said, however, "The university will have to come up with a better solution than coming through the kitchen."