Blacksburg campus accessibility improvements continue with additional capital construction project
Efforts to improve the accessibility of Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus will continue with the installation of an American with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant pathway in the North Academic District.
Presented in a combined design preview and review at the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors’ Buildings and Grounds Committee session on Tuesday, Aug. 29, the pedestrian pathway will offer a new route for campus visitors traversing from the Perry Street Garage and Multi-Modal Transit Facility to the Drillfield.
This pathway is the second of a series of high-priority mobility and accessibility improvements happening on the university’s Blacksburg campus. Construction on the first priority in the series — a pair of elevator towers in the North Academic District — began earlier this year.
Drawing on universal design principles, the pathway will be developed to encourage collaboration and conversation amongst its users. It will utilize a palette of materials consistent with Virginia Tech’s campus design principles including Hokie Stone retaining and seat walls, planting beds, bicycle racks, and Blacksburg campus standard light fixtures. Tables and chairs will be stationed at key points along the path. Native plantings consistent with the university’s ecological identity also will be incorporated.
When complete, the new pathway will help fully realize the central piece of the campus master plan’s green links and infinite loop.
“The green links are universally designed landscape corridors that extend north to south through the Drillfield to provide campus access to all members of the Virginia Tech community,” said Liza Morris, assistant vice president for planning and university architect. “These green links are designed to connect to the envisioned infinite loop that circles the Blacksburg campus. The infinite loop’s universal design would help encourage the use of sustainable transportation.”
These two components of the master plan were recognized in 2021 by the Society for College and University Planning for Excellence in Landscape for Open Space Planning.
Green links on the Blacksburg campus will be further developed in the third priority of the mobility and accessibility improvements series, which includes an ADA-compliant pathway leading from Holden Hall to the Drillfield.
“Continuing to develop the infinite loop and green links components of our campus master plan are critical for creating a welcoming and inclusive space for all visitors to Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus,” said Chris Kiwus, vice president for campus planning, infrastructure, and facilities. “Our division is proud to work alongside many university partners committed to furthering the accessibility of our iconic campus.”
Additional efforts to foster a more inclusive physical environment on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus have included
- Pathway enhancement to remove tripping hazards near Norris Hall
- Installation of a pedestrian pathway and Blacksburg Transit bus shelter at the Brooks Center
- A new accessible pathway from the North Academic District at Stanger and Old Turner streets to the Upper Quad District as part of the Upper Quad North Residence Hall and Corps Leadership and Military Science Building capital construction efforts
- A new accessible pathway in the President’s Quad
- The new Quillen Family Spirit Plaza, which has contributed to the infinite loop’s development in the residential region of the Blacksburg campus
Efforts underway to improve accessibility at Virginia Tech go beyond the physical ones. The Campus Accessibility Working Group — which draws upon expertise, programming, and support from a multitude of university units, governance groups, and stakeholders — has identified opportunities and solutions to advance the university’s digital accessibility including
- Accessibility review in the digital procurement process for high-risk purchases
- Addition of an accessibility developer position in ADA and Accessibility Services
- New accessible universitywide PowerPoint template
- Redesigned campus map with accessible pathways and regularly scheduled updates
- Improvements to more than 1,000 university webpages
- Pilot of the UsableNet AQA platform for web accessibility testing
"Ensuring accessibility is essential to Virginia Tech’s mission to serve,” said Kelly Oaks, associate vice president for the Office for Equity and Accessibility. “We are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all, from campus pathways that connect us physically to digital platforms that bring us together virtually. Our collective approach to accessible solutions reflects our university's dedication to delivering seamless experiences for every member of our community.”
The pathway will join several closely coordinated capital projects in the North Academic District including the set of elevator towers highlighted in priority one of the series of mobility and accessibility projects, the Multi-Modal Transit Facility, Hitt Hall, the Undergraduate Science Laboratory Building, and the New Business Building and Mitchell Hall, which are both under design.
Capital projects occurring in the North Academic District will help improve the accessibility of the region. The recently completed Data and Decision Sciences Building will help connect pedestrian pathways to the North Academic District. Hitt Hall, once complete in 2024, will provide a portion of the infinite loop. Mitchell Hall will feature an ADA-compliant pathway in between Mitchell and Hancock halls.
Both the accessible pathway in priority two and the pair of elevator towers in priority one of the series will be significantly complete in 2024, with the towers targeted for completion in spring 2024 and the pathway in fall 2024. A third priority – the accessible pathway from Holden Hall to the Drillfield – is preliminarily targeted for completion in spring 2025.
As construction commences, updates – including impacts to accessible and pedestrian routes – will be shared via Virginia Tech News.