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University Planning to Build New Residence Hall with Focus on Students with Disabilities

September 12, 2013
Source: The Independent Florida Alligator, FL

The University of Florida (UF)[in Gainesville] plans to build a $25 million, 82,000-square-foot residence hall that would include 35 spaces for students with high levels of physical disabilities.

Vice President for Student Affairs Dave Kratzer said in a Finance and Facilities Committee meeting with UF trustees Tuesday that the dorm, which would have 255 bed spaces total in suite-style rooms, would be near Yulee Hall and the Disability Resource Center.

Across the street is the College of Education at Norman Hall, which just received a $25 million grant to study students with disabilities.

“We’re looking at students that might have multiple challenges, and maybe some disabled veterans,” Kratzer said after the meeting.

The dorm will have accommodations for students with disabilities, including 8-foot-wide hallways so two wheelchairs can pass each other easily, said Associate Vice President and Director of Housing and Residence Education Norb Dunkel. Elevator cabs will be oversized as well.

Kratzer said there will be room for caregivers as well as modified kitchens so students can work on their own.

“There’s a lot of educational components in this building that have been carefully thought of,” he said after the meeting.

Some rooms will also have SureHands Lift and Care Systems, which are mounted in the ceilings and help students move around the room and bathroom.

The new dorm is based off of the University of Illinois’ Nugent Hall, which opened in 2010. Dunkel said that university went beyond the minimum standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. UF hopes to surpass it all.

Dunkel said UF housing gets about 10 requests a year for accommodations but is only able to make a few happen.

Some families with students still in high school are already excited about UF’s efforts, Kratzer said.

“They’ve heard about this, and they’ve said, ‘Tell us more,’” Dunkel said.

But not all the rooms in the new dorm will be designated for students with disabilities. The new building will help “relieve the pressure” on the other dorms, Kratzer said.

The projected groundbreaking for the dorm is set for January. The tentative opening would be in August 2015.

The dorm’s cost per square foot is about $325. Students would pay about the same for rent as those living in Hume Hall, Kratzer said.

Later Tuesday, the Board of Trustees voted to authorize a request to the Board of Governors to approve the issuance of about $23.5 million in bonds. The remaining $1.5 million will be contributed by UF Housing. The Board of Governors next meets September 12.

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