When visitors come to Grounds this fall, they will notice a change to the Lawn. Two ramps, installed on the western side of the Lawn adjacent to Pavilions V and IX, will allow Lawn accessibility for all visitors, including those with disabilities.
“The University has really considered the question [of accessibility] over the last 10 to 15 years,” Board of Visitors Building and Grounds Committee Chair Whitt Clement (Col ’70, Law ’74) said. “We acted [in response to the proposal] out of a concern of the obvious inconvenience to those with disabilities in having full access to the University.”
The approvals process, however, was somewhat lengthy, due in part to both a close examination of all accessibility options as well as some objection, including from the Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative, which encouraged alternative options such as elevators to avoid changing the physical make-up of the Lawn, according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress.
“Whenever you put a shovel in the ground in the Lawn, it has to be done so very, very carefully,” John Macfarlane (Darden ’79), former Buildings and Grounds Committee member, said. “We spent an extensive amount of time to ensure we were appropriately expansive in our thinking before we decided to go with the current plan.”
The University Architect’s office and the Buildings and Grounds Committee explored several other options but many were nonstarters, University Architect Alice Raucher said. Stair lifts, for instance, would present a code and safety issue, she said.
Raucher said personal preferences of students and faculty were also a major consideration. “If you have mobility challenges and you have to draw attention to yourself in getting into an elevator or a lift, that is quite different from a ramp that anyone can use.”