New team to help improve access, mobility on Blacksburg campus
With over 50 years of combined experience in concrete alone, the newly formed pathway enhancement crew within the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities is dedicated to increasing equal access and improved mobility for all on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.
Led by Windell Jones, manager for small exterior site work projects, the in-house trio of J.R. Posten, Steven Lyons, and Ryan Saville installs ramps and curb cuts, upgrades deteriorated sidewalks, addresses physical barriers, fixes urgent repairs, and proactively helps resolve other physical projects and upgrades to ensure ADA-compliant access.
“I’m excited to be on this hardworking team because we get to put the university’s commitment to improving accessibility and inclusivity in action on a daily basis,” said Lyons, concrete install and repair tech.
On a campus celebrating its 150th anniversary, upgrades and repairs are necessary in achieving the campus master plan in support of Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries vision. The crew’s ongoing activities play a key role in supporting long-term planning projects on the Blacksburg campus, including the Green Links, Infinite Loop, transportation planning for capital construction projects, and more.
“While we know we have a long way to go, the formation of this dedicated team reflects Virginia Tech’s priority of making campus spaces more accessible and inclusive,” said Joy Manning, director of renovations.
The launch of the pathway enhancement crew is part of ongoing efforts within the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and Office for Equity and Accessibility to eliminate barriers in existing spaces and ensure that newly designed facilities are ADA compliant.
“We’re proud of our top-notch pathway enhancement crew and the critical role they play to improve access for all on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. Our continued partnership with the Office for Equity and Accessibility is as important as ever as we embark on both ongoing capital construction projects and critical renovations,” said Chris Kiwus, vice president for campus planning, infrastructure, and facilities.
Efforts to improve physical campus accessibility and mobility
A new ADA campus accessibility architect role was created in late 2020 to help reduce accessibility and navigation barriers over the long term.
In his role as ADA campus accessibility architect, Joe Cooley engages with numerous offices and student and stakeholder groups to conduct onsite reviews and implement a range of renovation and transportation solutions to reduce navigation impediments and improve access and safety. Cooley also reviews all capital construction and renovation plans for adherence to ADA standards.
“Creating an inclusive environment that utilizes universal design principles requires close coordination with many university groups including the Office for Equity and Accessibility, Transportation Services, Capital Construction, the Office of University Planning, the renovations team, and more. It’s not enough for new and existing spaces to be built in an ADA compliant manner, they must also be maintained too,” said Cooley.
The Campus Accessibility Working Group provides an avenue for the Virginia Tech community to identify opportunities and solutions that advance university accessibility in a collaborative and coordinated manner.
In the upcoming weeks, the Campus Accessibility Working Group 2020-21 annual report will be shared with the university community via VTx. The report highlights a range of improvements around physical and digital accessibility at Virginia Tech, as well as coordinated planning and funding approach to implementing scalable change.
The collaborative approach remains key in addressing concerns raised by the university community in an effective and responsive manner. This has been instrumental in bringing a new pedestrian pathway from West Campus Drive to Oak Lane and the Duck Pond Overflow Lot in the near future.
Pathway enhancement crew projects
“We look at multiple factors when it comes to implementation planning as every initiative is important. Projects that present ongoing safety concerns are number one. We also closely monitor highly trafficked areas across campus and work closely with the Campus Accessibility Working Group and university community to elevate projects,” noted Manning.
Recently completed accessibility and pathway enhancement projects include:
- A new gently sloping pathway leading from the Duck Pond Drive Lot to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
- Sidewalk repairs along the Drillfield
- Sidewalk repairs at the Fralin Hall entrance
- Sidewalk repairs at West Campus side of Wallace Hall
- Sidewalk repairs at Drillfield side of Patton Hall
- Sidewalk repairs at Goodwin Hall
- Sidewalk repairs at Derring Hall
“We strive to make our repairs long lasting while conducting the work efficiently. If our work isn’t noticeable, that means we’ve done our jobs right,” said Lyons.
About the crew
Outside of their service to the Virginia Tech community, Jones, Posten, Lyons, and Saville enjoy the region’s outdoors with activities such as fishing, hunting, farming, and even riding motorcycles.
Many of the crew members are lifetime New River Valley residents.
Prior to joining the pathway enhancement crew, Saville served in the Town of Blacksburg’s public works department for 10 years. Lyons worked in railroad maintenance for 20 years. And Posten was in business for 30 years in residential contracting, excavation, and trucking.
“I am excited to get the pathway enhancement crew up and running. I look forward to a very positive outcome,” said Windell Jones.
Jones has served the Virginia Tech community for 35 years in roles with various teams: from the Virginia Tech Police Department to Virginia Tech Dairy, to the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities.
The talented and friendly team can be found throughout the Blacksburg campus, working to make the university a more inclusive environment.
“We have a good crew. I cannot wait to see what lies ahead,” said Ryan Saville, concrete install and repair tech.
How to report a physical barrier
Physical barriers on campus may include items such as an inoperative elevator or chair lift, a blocked pathway, or an inaccessible entrance. Physical access barriers may be reported by filling out this online form.