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Syracuse Fitness Center a Benchmark for Accessibility

From equipment to flooring to lockers, staff at the Syracuse University Fitness Center at Marshall Square Mall made every effort to make the facility accessible to individuals of all levels of physical ability.

Officials at Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y., embrace diversity as one of their core values, making every effort to provide an inclusive, fully accessible campus environment. As such, each member of the Syracuse University community is entitled to opportunities for involvement in all recreation services, programs and activities. However, even with more than 10,000 square feet of exercise equipment located in four campus fitness centers, feedback from patrons, coupled with usage numbers and patterns, revealed that these facilities were insufficient in meeting the fitness needs of the campus community (which has annual usage numbers of more than 210,000 students, faculty and staff).

To come up with a solution, an advisory committee was formed during the fall 2006 semester to identify potential locations for additional recreation facilities. The committee targeted August 2007 for project completion, concurring with the beginning of the fall 2007 semester.

After a space was found, construction began for the Syracuse University Fitness Center at Marshall Square Mall. Many factors were taken into consideration prior to the final construction stage of the project. Facility design elements such as equipment, flooring and locker rooms required careful planning, including compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Special consideration was taken to ensure that the facility included different types of fitness equipment that could be used by individuals with varying levels of physical ability. The planning committee used recommendations from the Syracuse University Beyond Compliant Coordination Committee to assure the facility promoted equal access by all members of the campus community.

The new facility features 3,900 square feet of space in upper and lower levels, which are joined by a ramp. Twelve weight machines were purchased, including five total-access units with swing-away seats for wheelchair access. Ten treadmills were purchased, of which two units include Braille overlays on the control panel, and one adjustable-position upper-body cycle was purchased. A stretching area contains elevated mats that measure 4 by 6 by 16 feet, which allows for above-the-floor stretching, and an easier transition by those in wheelchairs. Flooring was installed with orange aisles that measure 36 inches wide to meet ADA design standards for those in wheelchairs. Color contrast is used to assist those who are visually impaired with accessing machines, stretching mats and locker rooms.

In addition, the facility features three individual, unisex bathrooms that have accessible showers, toilets and sinks. (ADA requires a minimum of one dressing or changing room to be accessible.) One bathroom includes an internal automatic door opener and an emergency call system. Also, 50 percent of the lockers in the facility are within reach of a seated individual.

The Syracuse University Fitness Center at Marshall Square Mall is staffed by student employees. They are trained to have consistent interaction with all individuals, including those with disabilities. Staff is trained to not be afraid to offer assistance to those with disabilities, but also not to be overprotective. Written information about the accessibility of the facility is provided for patrons and staff.

Syracuse University is committed to creating a campus environment that is free from discrimination and celebrates diversity. This includes equal opportunities and access to the university's programs, services and facilities. The Syracuse University Fitness Center at Marshall Square Mall personifies this attitude, and is a benchmark for accessibility for the campus.


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