While renovations to Pierson College will not start until the summer of 2003, University officials have already started eyeing preliminary plans for the overhaul and examining the possibility of drastically increasing accessibility for disabled students in future college renovations.

Yale has selected Kiren Timberlake Associates, the same firm that designed the renovation plans for Berkeley College, to draw plans for work on Pierson and Davenport.

The firm, which is in the middle of conducting a feasibility study, has examined the two colleges’ renovations as one project and has studied issues of accessibility, food service configurations and common recreational facilities. Davenport will be the next college renovated after Pierson.

“They [Pierson and Davenport] are somewhat like Branford-Saybrook,” Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said. “You have to plan them as one project.”

The University hopes to receive final plans for the Pierson renovation by next fall, Facilities Project Director Arch Currie said.

In a meeting Monday, architects showed selected members of the Yale community preliminary results of their study, and many Yale officials now believe that the renovation will increase disabled accessibility to the Pierson entryways in particular.

Many of the first floor suites in Pierson are only one step above ground level, and Currie said that although he was not sure if the concept was entirely feasible, by raising the level of the courtyard, those first floor entryways could be made wheelchair accessible. Currie emphasized that the raised courtyard would allow disabled students to visit suites on the first floor, but that only select rooms would be completely equipped to house those students.

“You can visit someone in a suite, but you couldn’t live there,” he said. “This is very early, and we have yet to determine how much we can do.”

Many of the same ideas for increased access in Pierson are also being considered in Davenport.

Only six Yale students are permanently in wheelchairs, said Judith York, coordinator of the Resource Office of Disabilities. But each year many more students have debilitating injuries and can no longer climb stairs.

Yale’s system of entryways, rather than hallways, makes it difficult or impossible for disabled students to visit many residential suites.

“Because of the entryway system, someone in a wheelchair becomes much more isolated than if we had hallways,” said Frances Holloway, director of the Office for Equal Opportunity, who attended Monday’s meeting. “Our goal is to have all the activities in a college accessible to students in wheelchairs.”

University Planner Pamela Delphenich said the University always faces tough choices when trying to improve accessibility.

“How do you improve accessibility without compromising architecture?” she said. “It’s impossible to get universal accessibility. We do the best we can.”

The University is also studying how to improve dining and recreational facilities in the colleges. Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske said the University wants to expand the size of dining hall serving areas, especially since these spaces were originally designed for a serving staff to bring students food.

Meeske said the University wants Pierson and Davenport to share underground recreational facilities. He added that Pierson would likely retain its squash courts, while Davenport might instead transform some of its courts into a theater space.

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