The stunning historic architecture of the Yale School of Medicine, the nation’s sixth oldest medical school, is a beloved New Haven landmark. But at the time of their construction, the buildings, many of which are over a century old, had no accessibility in their blueprints.
Now the medical school campus is getting a more inclusive makeover. In 2019, the school launched Phase 1 of its building 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 way without excessive effort to navigate the school,” said Robert Connelly, AIA, associate director of planning. “But the steps to take to catch up to a campus over 100 years old by 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 railings on the ramp and door to the building.
Phase 2 involved improving the front entrance of SHM. The team replaced two of the doors – which were heavier and narrower than desired – with a single-wing door with an automatic drive. They also repaired the ramps and other issues that hindered access to the entrance.
Phase 3 involves extending the Harkness Auditorium elevator on the ground floor of SHM with an additional flight up. “By extending the elevator one more floor vertically, the second floor can be accessed, which can then take you to all areas of the medical school campus,” says Connelly.
Other smaller projects included upgrading the Anlyan Center auditorium by replacing all seats, implanting listening devices, creating wheelchair accessible locations and placing all doors in the auditorium on car operators. A project is currently underway to build accessible spaces at the lending desk of the Medical Historical Library. And in future projects, Connelly’s team hopes to tackle the Morse Reading Room and Brady Memorial Laboratory.
In addition, the YSM class of ’77 for nursing mothers raised the money to open a brand new mother’s room in SHM. The donors celebrated the opening of the hall during the Alumni Weekend on 4 June.
“In order for someone to learn or do their job to the best of their ability, they need to have accessibility – whether it’s physical accessibility, whether it’s 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 get the message across, which is that we are inclusive and that everyone is welcome and part of the Yale family.”
Latimore says it is particularly enthusiastic about the construction of additional chairlifts. Before this project, he says, there was no accessible way for people with reduced mobility to reach the Office of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI). “I think it’s very important that everyone can come to my office.”