12 on Your Side: VSU wheelchair accessibility changes

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia State University is making changes on campus to better serves students with a disability. The announcement comes just days after our series of reports from 12 on Your Side, about accessibility problems for a student who uses a wheelchair.

V.S.U. is taking several actions. It's all listed here in an email after our reports about Kionna Jones getting stuck in curb cuts, in buildings, and missing classes because of 'out of service' elevators. V.S.U. says the A.D.A. projects were planned before we got involved. But, here's what stands out, they still have elevator troubles.

NBC12 got the email Wednesday listing the university's new A.D.A. projects including more work on two elevators in buildings where we previously documented problems. We found a shut down elevator in Hunter-McDaniel hall the first day of our investigation. It's happened at least eight times, Kionna Jones says, and each time classes carry on without her. She's the only student missing class because of elevators.

"It just makes me mad. It's just little things like this, that. I can't go any other way. I can't go up stairs. So, how am I going to get to class? All I can do is email my teacher," Kionna said.

V.S.U. and Kionna disagree on moving the class to the first floor. V.S.U. allows her to makeup the work, but Kionna wants access to the classroom and believes it's a civil rights violation. V.S.U. says this is their final response to the issue.

We got an A.D.A. surveyor who also uses a wheelchair to go over the campus with me and make recommendations. V.S.U. followed her suggestion to have the ramp inspected. It says while it does make a bump sound, it's structurally safe and meets requirements.

V.S.U. says A.D.A. projects were approved in 2011. The campus library is getting doors changed for easier opening. A new ramp and elevator in Seward, and a new wheelchair lift in Storum. Harris Hall will get rescue and assistance areas installed in the stairways. Great news for the 19-year-old freshman who says she's gotten stuck in Harris Hall before and left behind during a fire drill last year at her dorm.

"When I was coming to get out the door, I couldn't get out the door. I didn't have this wheelchair. I had my other one and the door was like too heavy for me to push on my own. What if that had been a real fire?

I know. I don't want to think about that. That's scary. That's real scary," Kionna said.

The university is also replacing a section of sidewalk behind Harris Hall next week. It says the chipping and breaking was recently discovered.

Kionna says campus support staff reached out to her because of our reports and seems more genuine about helping her. V.S.U. says, like the surveyor stated in my report last Friday, V.S.U. is pro-active, responsive and forward-looking, with regard to accessibility.

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