The magnificent historic architecture of the Yale School of Medicine, the sixth oldest medical school in the nation, is a beloved landmark in New Haven. But at the time of their construction, the buildings, many of which are more than a century old, had no accessibility in their plans.
Now, the medical school campus is getting a makeover. In 2019, the school launched Phase 1 of its building plan to create a more accessible environment, and ongoing projects continue to improve space for the community.
“Our priority is to get people in and out comfortably without expending extraordinary effort to navigate the school,” says Robert Connelly, AIA, Associate Director of Planning. “But the steps to bring a 100-plus-year-old campus up 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 chairlifts and two platform lifts for navigation around the stairs on the first and second floors of the building. They also improved the entrance to the Hope Memorial Building by modifying the handrails on the ramp and the entrance door to the building.
Phase 2 consisted of improving the main entrance to the SHM. The team replaced two of the doors, which were heavier and narrower than desired, with a single leaf door with automatic operator. They also fixed the ramps and other issues preventing access to the entrance.
Phase 3 will consist of extending the Harkness Auditorium elevator to ground floor of SHM an additional flight up. “Extending the elevator vertically one more floor will allow accessibility to the second floor, which can then take you to all areas of the medical school campus,” says Connelly.
Other small projects included upgrading the Anlyan Center auditorium by replacing all seats, implanting listening devices, creating wheelchair accessible locations and installing all auditorium doors on auto-operators. A project is currently underway to build places accessible to Medical History Libraryloan office. And in future projects, Connelly’s team hopes to tackle the Morse Reading Room and the Brady Memorial Lab.
Additionally, for breastfeeding mothers, the YSM Class of 1977 raised funds to open a brand new Mother’s Room in SHM. Donors celebrated the hall’s opening during graduate weekend on June 4.
“In order for a person to learn or do their job to the best of their abilities, they must be accessible, whether physical or visual accessibility, to reach their full potential,” says Darin Latimore, MD, Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine (General Medicine). “We also want to send the right message that we are inclusive and that everyone is welcome and part of the Yale family.”
Latimore says he’s especially excited about building more chairlifts. Prior to this project, he says, there was no accessible way for people with reduced mobility to reach the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office. “Anyone can come to my office is really important to me.”