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Rice students tackle obstacles to servery accessibility

By Ranie Lin     9/26/18 1:50am

A team of students from the Rice chapter of Design for America has launched a new project to increase the wheelchair accessibility of serveries, according to Shane DiGiovanna, who will lead the project.

According to DiGiovanna, a Martel College sophomore, the project began in early September when Felix Wu, a Martel senior, reached out to DFA with concerns about servery accessibility for students with disabilities. 

According to the DFA project sketch, while Rice serveries are legally considered accessible, they are not yet fully usable for specific users with disabilities. The goal of the project is to design a successful prototype that will allow mobility scooter users to make their plate of food without a bystander’s assistance.

“Felix is our client, so my team is going to rely on his difficulties with the serveries to come up with a solution,” DiGiovanna said. “I’m giving as much useful information about my experience with accessibility at the serveries as I can while still making sure that Felix is the focus.”

Raj Dalal, a Wiess College junior who said he has had several experiences using a mobility scooter on campus to assist with injury recoveries, said accessing serveries was difficult and usually required the assistance of a friend.

“Since you are sitting down in a chair, you don’t have the best view of the menu,” Dalal said. “From the height of the scooter, it’s really difficult to even see the food itself and make your plate.”

According to Bilal Ghosn, the instructor for Needs Finding and Development in Bioengineering (BIOE 392), several students have expressed concerns with servery accessibility.

“Many of them find it difficult to maneuver the serveries in order to get their food and go and eat,” Ghosn said. “Some of the difficulty comes from an inability to reach the food with the ladles and serving spoons. Also, many of them had difficulty getting drinks from the fountain drink machines since they are higher than their reach.”

The goal is to fully implement the prototype by the end of the calendar year, according to the DFA project sketch. Weekly project updates will be posted on Rice’s DFA website and the final project review is slated for Dec. 1.

“In the long run, caring about others, which is a major part of being a Rice Owl, takes time and effort,” Ghosn said. “It is also why I have no doubts that Rice will continue to improve its accessibility issues and continue to make our campus one that is place of comfort for everyone.”

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