Center for Faith and Life reevaluates accessibility

The Center for Faith and Life building was constructed in 1977.

Aaron Lurth (‘08) I Photo Bureau

The Center for Faith and Life building was constructed in 1977.

Juhl Kuhlemeier, Staff Writer

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According to recent changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, Luther’s Center for Faith and Life is not up to code. The CFL was built in 1977, 13 years before the ADA was put in place in 1990. The most recent updates to the ADA in 2016 made codes stricter.

The current layout of the CFL has two side entrance ramps, a main auditorium that provides some seating for those with limited mobility, and accessibility stalls in the bathrooms. According to the new ADA regulations, the ramps are too steep and the accessibility stalls are not wide enough. Additionally, the building lacks an elevator and the door to the medical room is not big enough for a wheelchair to fit through.

According to Assistant Professor of English Lindsey Row-Heyveld, many of these problems are the result of the aging the building.

“The CFL is an old building, so it was built at a time when people were less cognizant of the needs of people with disabilities,” Row-Heyveld said.

Because the CFL is so frequently used for events on campus, the Luther Disabilities Alliance feels the need to advocate to make the building more accessible to the general public.

LDA member Erik Mandsager (‘20) is one of many advocating for change.

“[Imagine] somebody in a wheelchair at an event at the CFL,” Mandsager said. “It would be very difficult for them to use the bathroom or drink water, which are two pretty important things.”

Facilities Services has made more efforts in recent years to make the CFL more accessible, including the placement of handrails on steps and more seating areas that are wheelchair-accessible. However, according to Director of Facilities Services Jay Uthoff, any major renovations would require the full guidelines of the most recent law to be met. This becomes a structural and financial issue that sets back further improvements to the CFL.

“If you’re renovating the building, then you need to [meet] the guidelines,” Uthoff said. “You don’t have a choice. And that building is just a little difficult with, like, the way the ramps are built and how it’s formed and how it was poured and that’s just how it is.”

Short of financing an entire renovation, there is the possibility for smaller updates. The LDA plans to work with Facilities to develop a plan to make the building more inclusive until a full renovation is feasible.

“I think that there are other more affordable, less involved things that can be done, and I will say the LDA anticipates partnering with Facilities and other Luther entities to help with that,” Row-Heyveld said. “[LDA] is excited to help join with [Facilities and other Luther entities] to make the CFL as accessible as it can be.”

The Student Academic Support Center is also a part of the efforts to update the CFL. According to Interim Co-Director of SASC Sally Mallam, SASC also actively works with Facilities to try to improve accessibility around campus.

“This is students’ home — anything they need, we try to do it if we can,” Mallam said. “But I think that if the campus was more accessible, we would see a lot more students coming to Luther.”

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