12 On Your Side: ADA regulations at VSU

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - 12 On Your Side returns to the Virginia State University campus to see how the school matches up with A.D.A. regulations.

We were the first to bring you Kionna Jones' story Thursday night. We went along as the 19-year-old college freshman showed us some of the problems she says are keeping her from getting to class. We then took the next step -- calling in a surveyor for a first-hand tour. Here is what we found.

The A.D.A. surveyor, Kelly Hickok, is 'not' a government employee. She's an advocate for people with disabilities, through the non-profit organization – "Resources For Independent Living". Hickok suggested actions V.S.U. and Kionna, both can take.

The surveyor is in a wheelchair and can relate to Kionna's harrowing experiences. A.D.A. Surveyor Kelly Hickok chooses to use a manual chair to preserve upper body strength. So the ramp that V.S.U. freshman Kionna Jones reluctantly crosses to get to class in a motorized chair, Kionna showed us that "It will make this noise, like it's about to fall."

It's more taxing in a chair that requires human power, but does it meet A.D.A. standards and is it safe?

"I think I can tell what she's hearing," Kelly said when going up the same ramp.

A contractor could inspect it but, metal ramps are noisy, Kelly says, and crossing in a power chair which is heavier adds to noise and movement.

"I don't see an issue, but that's not to say there's not something going on underneath that could be a problem. It seems to be attached securely. There's rails and guards to keep people from slipping off from the other side," Kelly told us.

The Harris Hall restroom complaint- Kionna never uses the bathroom in this building.

"It's too small. My wheelchair is not fitting through the door," Kionna said.

She had no idea an accessible restroom was around the corner. Kelly's suggestion..."Put a sign on the inaccessible restroom directing someone to the accessible restroom. If they get to the inaccessible restroom, they know where the closest accessible restroom is."

Generally speaking, A.D.A. does not require every building be fully accessible. The focus is equal access to programs and not to fixate on ramps and elevators. That's the irony.  Elevators are why Kionna has missed classes that go on without her, eight times. She can't use the stairs like other students, when the elevator is 'out of service'.

V.S.U. allows her to makeup the work without penalty.  Kionna believes V.S.U.'s remedy is a civil rights' violation.

KIONNA: "It's not the point of understanding. I'm still missing the work."
DIANE: "You want to go to class?"
KIONNA: "Yes. I want to go to class."

When we asked if it was reasonable to move the class to the 1st floor where she can attend, Tom Reed with VSU Media Relations responded, "We don't have a lot of classroom space. We feel like it's reasonable to allow her to make up the work without penalty."

Kelly says there may be administrative burdens. She suggests V.S.U. and Kionna's family have a conversation. If there's a lawsuit, V.S.U. will have to substantiate why moving the classroom can't be done. She says there may be legitimate reasons.

"They've been very proactive and forward thinking in accessibility issues. So, I'm really kind of surprised. I'm just wondering if it just hasn't gotten to the right person," Kelly said.

The A.D.A. surveyor says Kionna must continue advocating for herself, speaking up, demanding attention, until the right person hears her. V.S.U. says it's 100% in compliance with A.D.A. It has worked with Kionna and her family, and will continue. We will follow up to see if any of the recommendations are implemented.

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