NYU agrees to improve student housing accessibility under ADA

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Dive Brief:

  • New York University will work to make its student housing more accessible for people with disabilities under an agreement announced Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
  • The agreement covers more than 4,000 student housing units across 22 facilities that NYU owns and 10 more the nonprofit university leases. The facilities are for undergraduate, graduate and professional students in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island.
  • The deal comes after the U.S. attorney’s office found parts of NYU student housing out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Issues included new construction violations and barriers to accessing existing facilities.

Dive Insight:

NYU becomes the second large university in two days to resolve allegations of ADA noncompliance. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an agreement with the University of California, Berkeley that will require the public institution to make its free online content accessible to people with hearing, visual and manual disabilities over the next 3 1/2 years.

Taken together, the cases serve as a reminder to colleges to meet ADA standards.

“The ADA requires colleges and universities to ensure that no individual is discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of their services and facilities,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “We are pleased that NYU has committed to improving accessibility within the University’s student housing facilities and hope that other colleges and universities will follow suit and increase access to their facilities for individuals with disabilities.”

NYU agreed to survey its student housing and make changes within five years. It also agreed to update student housing emergency preparedness plans and make information about student housing on its website more accessible.

The agreement falls under Title III of the ADA, which requires privately owned places of public accommodation to in many cases remove physical barriers to access and to meet accessibility standards in new construction and renovations. Colleges and universities are places of public accommodation.

The agreement was reached outside of court.

NYU agreed to make an “appropriate number” of accessible housing units and bathrooms available to students with disabilities. It will make sure those units have accessible entrances, signs and common areas on the first floor.

And it will ensure its website points out accessible entrances, routes and transportation options for different housing facilities, as well as offers information so students with disabilities can use accessible housing at the university.

NYU has already retained an ADA compliance consultant, and it recently finished two dozen projects relating to student housing accessibility, a spokesperson, John Beckman, said in a statement. More projects are underway or being planned, according to Beckman, who added the university is “glad to have come to an agreement” with the U.S. attorney’s office.

“The University is committed to inclusion, and to making sure that its student housing system is compliant with the ADA,” Beckman said. “This agreement allows NYU to better meet those commitments over the next five years through careful surveying of its student housing system and making additional changes to improve accessibility. We think this is a good outcome.”

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