Library terrace renovations take needed accessibility strides for College 

By Sophie Foster and Jessica Kelso

Opinion Editor and Elm Staff Writer

This article was originally posted in the Oct. 26, 2023 digital edition of The Elm.

The Clifton M. Miller Library terrace renovations are in their final stage.  

The terrace was under construction for over four months. The renovations aimed to make the space more accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

According to previous Elm coverage, the Washington College community began the push for more accessible spots on campus in February and construction on the terrace began in June.  

Though most construction took place over the summer while students were not present on campus, there was some concern for students using the library at the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year.  

With the main entrance of the library blocked off for renovations, accessing the library became a new challenge for the WC community.  

“We were really sweating it out at the last minute before classes started,” Dean of Library and Academic Technology Dr. Mary Alice Ball said. “We didn’t know whether we’d have to let people in through the rear entrance.”  

Nonetheless, the first day of classes had the space packed with students entering and exiting through Sophie’s Cafe while construction continued outside.  

Prior to the renovation of the terrace, steps were taken to make other spaces in the library accessible.  

In January, the first floor of the Miller Library was remodeled to ensure desks met ADA standards. Doors were also made accessible to accommodate students.  

According to Dr. Ball, the College as a whole is making efforts to become more accessible to everyone.  

“There are many people on this campus who may have an injury at some time and have a challenge with accessibility, whether it’s temporary or it’s an ongoing physical challenge,” she said.  

Of the many renovations made, she noted the ramp leading up to the terrace as a place where significant change was needed. The prior design was too steep and did not comply with ADA standards.  

The library is also looking at modifying another three to four classrooms with ADA compliant furniture, using the Newlin room as a blueprint.  

According to Dr. Ball, WC’s goal is to create “the best possible learning environment” for students. She believes that the new design of the library terrace will help both students and teachers expand learning opportunities.  

The terrace can be a space for individual and group study sessions, as well as classes at the professor’s discretion.  

Outlets, tables, benches, and chairs are provided along with portable chargers and wheel out whiteboards to aid teaching and studying.  

Additionally, the space is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and can be used as a central hub on campus. With the historic trees the terrace is built around and the well-cultivated gardens, it is the perfect place to spend time, whether it be to study or simply to enjoy the outdoors.  

The terrace also overlooks the campus green and is only a short walk from each of the academic buildings and the surrounding commons.  

According to senior Rae Merson, these renovations have made their life substantially easier.  

“As someone who finds steep steps inaccessible and sometimes needs to use ramps, having more options for my mobility is wonderful,” Merson said. “I’m also glad that the pavement is smoother and causes less moments of feeling unsteady.” 

While not every aspect of the renovation is without flaw — Merson pinpoints the slightly-too-tall tables as an item in that category — overall, student response is justifiably positive.  

“It would have been amazing if the construction could have been completed before the semester started, but the fact that the campus listened to student, staff, and faculty concerns about needing accessibility on campus is what should be focused on,” Merson said. “To me, this project is a hopeful sign that our campus can become fully ADA compliant with elevators in every building and more accessible ramp areas.” 

Another accessibility focus of the College is the mental health of students. WC seeks to create an inclusive community for everyone on campus and provides both mental health resources and education for anyone willing to participate.  

All faculty and staff undergo Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education, or CARE, training to prepare them to help students with mental health challenges.  

The CARE management system allows members of the WC community to report mental health concerns for their peers.  

“Reports are reviewed daily by a member of the Dean of Students office and bi-monthly, a cross-campus team of professionals reviews student cases to determine appropriate follow up and support for that student,” according to the WC website.  

By not only making accommodations for physical disabilities but also implementing a way to support mental health, WC expresses its priority of accessibility. As a primary goal of WC, it is obvious that the community is working hard to make accessibility a reality. 

Photo by Sophie Foster

Photo caption: The terrace now boasts smoother brick walkways, fewer sets of stairs, and new furniture, among other needed changes. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *