This semester, one of the biggest struggles for Miguel Castro, a political science senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, is getting inside the school. Castro uses a wheelchair because of spina bifida, which has caused paralysis from the waist down.
The front doors of the Central Academic Building have not worked properly since late August. Facilities officials say they are waiting for budget approval to fix the doors.
“That’s a big issue right now,” Castro said. “They’ve been broken — heck, I don’t even know if they were working at the end of last semester. They don’t open the way they’re supposed to…and it’s a big inconvenience for individuals like myself because I’m in a wheelchair.”
The tall copper doors are designed to automatically open when someone steps on the footpad outside the entrance. There is also an Americans with Disabilities Act push button near the entrance. A “please use other door” sign has been hanging on the non-functioning door, directing people to only use the functioning door.
Castro is also a student senator for the Student Government Association and a disability liaison. He spends his time in CAB speaking with the Disability Support Services for students like himself because facilities has not provided him with the time of when repairs will be complete.
Castro said he contacted Chief Facilities Officer Todd Mocabee and Dr. William Spindle, vice president for Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer, to advocate for individuals with special needs dealing with the CAB doors, hoping to get the problem resolved.
Mocabee said the doors have been challenging to maintain since their 2014 installation. He said the hardware does not sustain the weight of the doors and the strength of the wind.
“We are working on a plan that, if approved, will retrofit both sets of doors in CAB and should fix the issue permanently,” Mocabee wrote in an email Oct. 29. “I hope to have an approval soon; however, this of course is pending budget approval.”
In an interview on Oct. 9, 2014, Casey Annunzio, former lead architect for Munoz & Company, had planned for the central copper doors to be grand and significant for the campus.
“The doors signify opening doors to education; as a doorway to the future,” Annunzio said.
The Mesquite contacted the A&M-San Antonio Facilities Services office to determine which department approves budget cost, but facilities staff did not respond to email sent on Oct. 22 or a call made on Oct. 23.
On Oct. 22, Mesquite reporters observed as people entered and exited the doors.
The door only opened a foot wide causing people entering and exiting to bump into each other.
A man pushing a printer paper cart struggled to open the door. The windy draft made it harder for people to open the door any wider.
According to Castro, the CAB door automatic sensor accessibility is not working properly. He had an incident when the door malfunctioned while entering the building.
“The CAB doors are very heavy and one day it closed on me when I was going through and smashed my chair,” said Castro.
Computer information systems senior Christine Cordova said she believes it is important for the doors to work properly and finds it difficult to open the doors because they are heavy and a hassle.
“It kind of makes me not want to go that way,” Cordova said of the front entrance to CAB.
The Mesquite contacted the Disability Support Services office on Oct 21, and a representative who was not comfortable releasing their name for a statement said they had received several complaints about the brass doors not working properly. The office is submitting a facility request for maintenance tickets, she said. The DSS office was contacted by phone on Nov 1, no response has been provided on the Mesquite’s request for a statement.
According to the representative, after a repair/maintenance request is submitted, the DSS office is notified that their request was received.
The Mesquite asked the facilities services department on Oct. 22 to release the number of CAB door maintenance tickets submitted.
Facilities coordinator Mary Walker responded by phone on Oct. 29 and said the office is awaiting approval from the communication department’s marketing director to release records.
In the meantime, a representative of the DSS office is advising students to use accessible doors near the recreation room and the cafeteria of CAB.
Castro’s passion for advocacy motivates him to help people. He said he has seen people with disabilities and people who are not disabled have difficulty with the doors.
“They just need to either fix them or see what they can do to get the problem resolved,” said Castro, “They’re trying to get it fixed. But it’s taken forever.”
Castro said he also contacted Mick Deeds, director of facilities for Southeast Service Corporation at A&M-San Antonio. SSC is a contractor that provides facility maintenance and custodial services to the university.
“They’re in the process of being repaired,” Deeds said. “They’re a different type of door and they require a lot of maintenance and we’re looking into doing something different with them.”
Clarissa Martinez, Sebastian Cervantes and Stephanie Martinez contributed to this story.