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Upcoming Old Well accessibility renovations to be finished before fall FDOC


The Old Well on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

Construction on the Old Well to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities will begin on May 30.

The main changes include the installation of a permanent wheelchair-accessible ramp connected to the upper platform of the Old Well. The stone base holding the water fountain will be removed, and the fountain will be lowered.

The project is donor funded and is estimated to cost approximately $316,000, according to UNC Media Relations.

Previously, the University has installed a temporary wheelchair ramp for certain campus events, such as Commencement and First Day of Classes. The temporary ramp has been left in place at the Old Well since January 2022. 

Jennifer Diliberto, a clinical associate professor at the School of Education, said the Old Well is a symbol for the University because of its heavy use in branding for UNC’s academic programs. But, she said the Old Well also plays a role in student traditions.

One of UNC’s traditions involves students drinking from the Old Well on FDOC to achieve a 4.0 GPA for the semester.

Diliberto said students with disabilities often feel disconnected due to their inability to engage in those traditions that able-bodied students are able to perform. 

“By making our academic symbol of the University accessible, it's showing that we are embracing all abilities, all students and that we want them at our campus,” Diliberto said. “I believe that without having that academic symbol accessible, it takes away from our sincerity of saying that we are welcoming to all.”

Accessibility on the University campus has been an important topic for equity and inclusivity within the past several months.

In February, students sat in front of South Building to protest campus inaccessibility. The Koury Residence Hall elevator also malfunctioned last year, preventing wheelchair users from leaving the building.

Diliberto is a faculty advisor for Tar Heels at the Table, a student-led organization spreading awareness on disability, accessibility and inclusion on UNC’s campus.

While Tar Heels at the Table aims to provide a community for students with disabilities and their allies, she said students often do not disclose their accommodations to ARS, preventing them from receiving the support they need. 

“We talk more about equity, inclusion, access and diversity, and disability is unique to diversity,” Diliberto said. “It's one area of diversity that we often don't want to talk about.”

Sophomore Naman Saboo uses a wheelchair and relies on ARS services to travel around campus. He said the addition of a permanent ramp at the Old Well is a positive change.

“It's good that they're doing that, especially making it permanent and integrated so it is not an extra thing on top,” Saboo said. “Oftentimes you’ll see a lot of ramps where they just put in place makeshift ones, and it’s annoying.”

Though he believes that the University’s accommodations are good, he said there is also room for improvement in services beyond the Old Well renovations. 

Saboo said he sometimes has to avoid mismatched or missing bricks while traveling around campus. For one of his classes in Caldwell Hall, which has several inaccessible classrooms, Saboo has had to move locations in order to attend office hours with his professors.

According to Media Relations, UNC will allocate $5 million during the 2023-24 school year for campus accessibility improvements. Media Relations also said approximately 20 percent of renovation and repair funding will be used for accessibility improvements.

Daniel Klasik, an associate professor at the School of Education, teaches a course called History of American Higher Education, which delves into the history of UNC and higher education across the United States. Klasik said it is essential for students to understand the roots and historical developments of their environment, especially when dealing with issues of inclusion.

Klasik said he believes the Old Well renovations represent the ongoing evolution of UNC’s campus to address its changing needs and student population. 

“So many of the challenges that we think we face on campus, or even so many of the forms of campus that we feel are modern, are actually rooted in a long history of struggle and development over time,” Klasik said. 

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During renovations, the north side sidewalk of East Cameron Avenue adjacent to the Old Well and other surrounding walking paths will be closed off during the summer. Construction is expected to finish on August 11, before the first day of classes for the 2023-24 academic year.