While accessibility is at the core of Princeton’s campus mobility principles, not all the buildings constructed over the University’s quarter-millennium history have included the same accessibility features. The Daily Princetonian analyzed the accessibility of all campus buildings, from the oldest — Nassau Hall, which was built in 1756 — to the newest — the buildings that comprise New College West (NCW) and Yeh College, which were constructed in 2022.
We analyzed the campus buildings listed on the Princeton Alumni Weekly’s ADA Campus Map and updated this data to account for the construction of NCW and Yeh College, as well as the demolition of First College — excluding Walker and Feinberg Halls — and 1915 Hall.
Overall, of the 170 buildings on campus, 92 are entirely wheelchair accessible and only 17 buildings are completely wheelchair inaccessible. Nine out of the 17 inaccessible buildings are undergraduate residential halls, and out of those nine, five are in Rockefeller and Mathey Colleges. The remaining inaccessible buildings are in Lawrence Apartments, North Garage, Prospect House, and Elementary Particles Lab West. According to Michael Barnes, Director of Campus Accessibility, renovations to Prospect House to make it accessible are imminent.
Fourteen campus buildings have different accessibility categorizations depending on parts of the hall. For example, the second floor of Blair Hall is not accessible except for entries four and five.
“As a rule, our goal is that all new construction and renovation are designed and include features that allow for independent use to the highest extent possible by all individuals regardless of ability,” Barnes wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’
In line with this mission, newer construction projects, such as NCW, Yeh, Whitman, and Butler, were built to be entirely wheelchair accessible. Conversely, older buildings are less wheelchair accessible, with Forbes College and Mathey College having no buildings that are entirely wheelchair accessible.
Less than half of all dorm buildings, or 26 out of 53, are wheelchair-accessible on all levels. An additional 17 are at least partially accessible, either in specific parts of the building or on certain levels. Nine are completely wheelchair inaccessible: two in Rockefeller, four in Mathey, and four in upperclass housing These numbers sum to 10 because Campbell is split between Rockefeller and Mathey.
The completely inaccessible residential college buildings are Madison, Campbell, Joline, Hamilton, Blair, Pyne, Cuyler, 1903, and Wright Halls. All of the completely inaccessible dorms were built before the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed, which forbade colleges and universities from “excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services.” All residential colleges that are fully accessible were built after the act was passed. Witherspoon Hall in Rockefeller is the oldest fully accessible dorm on campus, having been built in 1877. This is because Witherspoon has an elevator. According to a statement to the ‘Prince’ from Elizabeth Erickson, Director for Disability Services, “older dormitories are … being reviewed for accessibility improvements.” The design of older Princeton dorms, with individual staircases in each entryway, makes it more difficult for them to become accessible — a building like Campbell would need six elevators to become accessible while Witherspoon only needs one.
Overall, Princeton’s buildings are becoming more wheelchair accessible over time. With more new buildings, we may expect the percentage of accessible rooms to increased going forward.
Elaine Huang is a head Data editor for the ‘Prince.’
Suthi Navaratnam-Tomayko is an assistant editor for the Data section at the ‘Prince.’
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