Princeton buildings surveyed for accessibility

Written by
Frances Hannan, Office of the Vice President for Facilities
Oct. 10, 2023

The project is being led by Michael Barnes, the University’s inaugural Director of Accessibility. “Accessibility means that everyone should be able to get everywhere,” said Barnes. “This project will provide people with disabilities and their caregivers the information they need to better navigate campus.” 

AccessAble has been producing accessibility information for over 20 years. They were set up by their founder as a direct result of his experiences as a wheelchair user. With 375+ clients, AccessAble serves over 5 million disabled people a year through their website. They have completed surveys at other prestigious institutions with historic buildings and infrastructure. 

What are we doing? 

Princeton University is working with AccessAble to carry out an accessibility survey of all our buildings, including parking facilities and sports venues. This will look at accessibility in our buildings from a pan disability perspective and include the collection of 100s of pieces of information, including measurements and photographs.  

An AccessAble surveyor will visit each building to carry out an assessment. AccessAble will remain our partners, providing practical support to our teams in the ongoing re-development of spaces and the design of our new buildings. 

We are particularly excited about how this work will integrate with our new campus wayfinding tool. This will provide a uniquely comprehensive program of accessibility information, supporting staff, students and visitors navigate throughout the entire campus environment. 

Why are we doing it? 

Overall, there are about 42.5 million Americans with disabilities, making up 13% of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2021. This group includes people with hearing, vision, cognitive, walking, self-care or independent living difficulties. 

We want to promote what we offer now and look at how we can improve the experience for students and staff with disabilities in the future, as part of our sustained commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. We recognize that access begins online, and that having comprehensive accessibility information removes a key barrier to people accessing Princeton University, providing equity of experience. 

AccessAble use a unique research tool to collect the information that people with disabilities and caregivers have told them is important. AccessAble’s robust quality assurance process means that we will have consistent, accurate accessibility data across our entire estate, enabling people with disabilities to thrive fully on this campus and beyond. 

AccessAble will not be giving our buildings a rating or say whether the access is good or bad, they will simply collect access information. 

What will Princeton University get? 

Detailed Access Guides 

These will be produced for each building and will be published on the facilities site. We will also ensure these are integrated into the Princeton University website and the Wayfinding App.   

The Guides are for students, visitors, and staff with access requirements and will support people to have the best experience while they are here with us. 

Accessibility Improvement Reports 

These confidential reports will look at opportunities for us to improve accessibility at Princeton University. The format of reports will be developed with our Accessibility and Facilities teams so they can be used to gain a clear overview of our strengths and areas to improve. 

What do we need from you? 

AccessAble will be visiting our buildings starting in October 2023 through November 2023. They will need access to all the areas students and visitors would visit. In most cases these are public areas and we do not need any support to access. The surveyors will not be entering private offices, or dorm rooms.   

They are experienced in working in busy environments and will work unobtrusively and flexibly. The office of campus accessibility has arranged public safety escorts for all housing spaces. The surveyors will work their way round the building taking photographs and measurements.  

Photographs will NOT be taken of individuals or sensitive areas, and all parties will have the opportunity to view the completed access guide before it is published.  

More questions? 

Please reach out to Mike Barnes ([email protected]) if you have any questions regarding this process.