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UNC launches notifications for broken elevators amid maintenance backlog

university-elevator-outage-notifications

Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock.

UNC announced a new notification system regarding elevator outages last week in a campuswide email. 

The system, created through a partnership between UNC Facilities Services and Emergency Management and Planning, is accessible to users through the Carolina Ready Safety App. 

These notifications, along with a corresponding dashboard, will notify app users of elevator outages.

According to UNC Media Relations, elevators on campus undergo routine checks by technicians, so outages are reported by these technicians and campus community members. 

Some students, like senior Sarah Ferguson, have mixed emotions about this new feature. 

“I'm hesitant to say that I'm excited,” Ferguson, who uses a wheelchair, said. Relying on individuals to report nonfunctioning elevators feeds a component of her hesitation, she said.

Ferguson also said her biggest concern is whether or not students will be notified when elevators are back in working order. 

Media Relations confirmed that students will have the ability to monitor the dashboard to stay updated on the progress of reported outages and see other elevator outage reports across campus. However, there will be no follow-up push notifications after the initial outage report.

Following the report, Media Relations said “licensed maintenance personnel are dispatched to assess the situation." After Building Services receives confirmation of the outage, an update will be logged into the elevator dashboard.

Maelynn Higgins, a first-year athlete, had foot surgery over the summer and could not put any weight on her foot during the first month of class. She said she traveled through campus on a knee scooter.

Higgins said she has been affected by broken elevators once or twice a week, which caused her to be late to class a number of times. She said the new notification system will be useful as she continues using a mobility device. 

“I would definitely be able to better prepare for class, and also I would have less anxiety about worrying that hopefully someone is there to help me get up the stairs,” she said.

After she got off the elevator in Davie Hall on her first day of class, Higgins said she encountered a stairwell to enter the classroom with no alternate solution. She said she had to rely on multiple people to help her get to and from this class. 

“I remember the first day looking at [the stairs] and I was like, "How in the world do I do this?'” she said.  

Ferguson said she has had multiple experiences over the past three years of navigating across campus to class or the dining hall and arriving only to find a broken elevator, keeping her from attending class or eating a meal. She said she encounters this problem at least once a month.

UNC junior Jazmin Valdez recently used crutches due to a foot injury. When she encountered a broken elevator, she had to use the stairs with crutches. 

Since her injury, Valdez said she has been concerned about arriving at a building and encountering a broken elevator. She said the new Elevator Outage Notification System will be a help not only to her but also to other students who need to use elevators.

“It won’t just help me. It will help the students who are also hurt, have disabilities or have trouble getting down the stairs,” Valdez said. 

At one point last year, Ferguson said a broken elevator resulted in her missing six classes in Hamilton Hall before she could be moved to an accessible classroom. She also said she has had to drop a French class in the past because of missing instructional time due to a broken elevator. 

Ferguson said she does not think this new system is addressing the larger maintenance issue on campus. 

“It's just a giant Band-Aid solution because the biggest problem is the giant backlog of maintenance on elevators,” she said. “Because there's still the problem that if it's broken down, I need to hope that my professors are going to excuse me from not going to class. And then I'm still missing instructional time.” 

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As of Aug. 14, Media Relations said “the deferred maintenance backlog remains at $1.1 billion.” 

Media Relations said accessibility is “an extremely important topic” to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, and that he, along with his senior leadership team, will continue to listen to students and update them on “accessibility improvements in their respective areas.” 

Students can work with Accessibility Resources and Service and instructors to arrange accessibility accommodations concerning issues that arise from elevator outages, Media Relations said. 

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