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Handicapped elevators join Heights Lounge

Any Heights Lounge patron will have noticed the two beige elevators recently installed to accommodate handicapped visitors. This addition was quite overdue for, before this renovation, the Heights Lounge was almost completely handicapped-inaccessible. Still, students wonder what specifically led to the installation of the lifts, and why Yeshiva University chose to perform these renovations at this time.

Although students’ reactions to the recent additions have been minimal, some complain that the elevators are somewhat ugly, and should have been designed to blend in more with their architectural surroundings. Other than the students who spend hours every day in the Heights Lounge, few people harbor any particular feelings regarding the aesthetic quality of the elevators themselves.

While many may believe that these elevators are long overdue, YU was only legally required to install the elevators when the Heights Lounge opened in 2009. Before that, the space was previously home to the Yeshiva University Museum, which could only fit approximately fifty people (most of the space was taken up by exhibits). Legally, only if a building contains an open area that can hold more than 75 people is it considered a “place of assembly.” Among the requirements of a place of assembly is the installation of wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and ramps or elevators. Therefore, the Museum area, which could not fit 75 people, was not a “place of assembly.”

When the Heights Lounge opened in 2009, the area’s legal definition changed, and YU was legally required to install the elevators. Yet, Yeshiva University “didn’t have the money to put in the elevators,” explains Vice President of Administrative Services Mr. Jeffrey Rosengarten. As a result of the fiscal setbacks, the Heights Lounge opened without the required handicapped elevators and bathrooms. The university was able to open and maintain the legality of the Heights Lounge by obtaining permits, which constantly needed renewal. When the university finally was able to budget money towards the Heights Lounge, the elevators were installed.

After this renovation to the Heights Lounge, Zysman Hall was left as the only wheelchair-inaccessible building on Wilf Campus. (Although the main entrance to Furst Hall is comprised of multiple stairs, there is a side entrance that is wheelchair accessible.) Legally, Zysman Hall does not create a problem, because there are certain leniencies that come into effect if it is physically and structurally difficult to renovate and update the building. Still, Rosengarten notes that “when there are events in Zysman, a ramp is installed by the side entrance to make the building wheelchair-accessible.” Also, seven years ago, a student at MTA (Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys, located in Zysman) was wheelchair-bound for one year, and security made sure that a ramp was available for the student. Rosengarten added that “around four years ago, a girl in a wheelchair started Stern College and we went out of our way to remodel her room to make sure she would have a good experience.” Despite Zysman’s current structure, Rosengarten asserts that Yeshiva University is one of the more handicapped-friendly campuses in New York City. (The Commentator has been unable, yet, to substantiate this claim.) He also added that “Yeshiva University is committed to making sure that the campus is accessible to everyone.”

While these new elevators may be a bit of an eyesore for the Heights Lounge regulars, they assist in making Yeshiva University a more handicapped-accessible university.