Letter to the Editor

John Brown University is a very blessed institution. As the Director of Facilities, it has been amazing to see and be a part of the transformation of this campus over the last 14 years.

Twenty years ago we had an understandable philosophy of ADA compliance as “accommodate as needed.” This worked fairly well, but there were still many barriers to handicap individuals that we could not get to. Now, with the blessings of all of the new construction and remodeling, we have been able to implement many more of the American Disabilities Act recommendations. In my opinion, one of the best things we have done is add door openers to many of our buildings. This allows everyone to freely enter buildings without assistance.

Specifically, this past summer we added “openers” to the Mabee Center (dining hall), Walton Lifetime Health Complex, Walker Residence Hall, the library, and three areas of the Cathedral. These were locations that were still difficult to access. I know that these openers have been well received by our students and visitors. These openers are expensive but the removing of barriers is worth it.

Lately, my maintenance crew received work orders related to the handicapped doors. They were not functioning properly and those that need the door openers could not use them. We fixed the openers, which again aren’t cheap, so that they will work. However, we were confused as to why they were failing so quickly. So, I started watching different doors where we had problems. It became very apparent quickly what the problem is – the doors are being used frequently by able-bodied people for general convenience. I watched ten groups of people come through the cafeteria doors and six pushed the opener. Not only does it wear out the door openers, but it also allows cold (or hot) air to enter the building for thirty seconds.

Obviously, the door openers are for those who need them, this might be a handicapped person, a person with their hands full, or someone pushing a cart.

I am asking for help from the JBU community. Please be respectful of those that need these doors. Please do not use these doors if you don’t need to. If your hands are full or you are temporarily on crutches, please use them. However, if you are able-bodied, please be respectful of others. There have been instances where those who truly needed these doors have not been able to use them because they were broken. I’m sure that most don’t think about that, but I do every time I have to spend your money to fix them.


Steve Brankle
Director of Facilities Services and Sustainability