The stunning historical architecture of Yale School of Medicine, the sixth oldest medical school in the country, is a beloved landmark in New Haven. But at the time of their construction, the buildings, many of which are over a century old, did not have accessibility in their blueprints.
Now, the medical school campus is getting a more inclusive makeover. In 2019, the school launched phase 1 of its construction plan to create a more accessible environment, and ongoing projects continue to improve the space for the community.
“Our priority is to get people in and around in a comfortable manner without going through any extraordinary efforts to navigate the school,” says Robert Connelly, AIA, associate director of planning. “But the steps that need to be taken to catch up a campus over 100 years old to today’s standards will take time.”
Phase 1 of the project promoted accessibility in and around Sterling Hall of Medicine (SHM), the school’s central building. Connelly’s team installed four chair lifts and two platform lifts for navigation around the stairs on the first and second floors of the building. They also upgraded the entrance of the Hope Memorial Building by modifying the handrails on the ramp and the door into the building.
Phase 2 involved improving the front entrance to SHM. The team replaced two of the doors—which were heavier and narrower than desired—with a single-leaf door with an auto-operator. They also fixed the ramps and other issues impeding access to the entrance.
Phase 3 will involve extending the Harkness Auditorium elevator at the ground floor of SHM an additional flight up. “By extending the elevator one more floor vertically, it will allow accessibility to the second floor, which then can get you to all areas of the medical school campus,” says Connelly.
Other smaller projects have included upgrading the Anlyan Center auditorium by replacing all of the seating, implanting listening devices, creating accessible locations for wheelchairs, and putting all doors into the auditorium on auto-operators. There is a project now in process to build accessible spots at the Medical Historical Library’s circulation desk. And in future projects, Connelly’s team hopes to tackle the Morse Reading Room and Brady Memorial Laboratory.
Furthermore, for nursing mothers, the YSM class of ’77 raised the funds to open a brand new Mothers’ Room in SHM. The donors celebrated the opening of the room during Alumni Weekend on June 4.
“In order for a person to learn or do their job to the best of their ability, they need to have accessibility—be it physical accessibility, be it visual accessibility—to reach their full potential,” says Darin Latimore, MD, deputy dean and chief diversity officer and associate professor of internal medicine (general medicine). “We also want to send the right message, which is we’re inclusive and everyone is welcome and part of the Yale family.”
Latimore says he is especially excited about the construction of additional chair lifts. Before this project, he says, there was no accessible way for those with limited mobility to reach the office of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “Everyone being able to come to my office is really important to me.”