Renovations Will Make UA Student Union Tucson's Largest Venue With Inclusive Stage Access

Aug. 5, 2019

Renovations Will Make UA Student Union Tucson's Largest Venue With Inclusive Stage Access

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center is now the largest Tucson venue with permanent inclusive access to a stage.

Renovations in the Grand Ballroom, the Union's largest event space, have replaced stairs on both sides of the stage with ramps. The change will allow anyone approaching or leaving the stage – either by walking or using a wheelchair or other assistive device – to use the same route, meeting the definition of inclusive access.

Before the renovation, those who couldn't use stairs to reach the stage had to go behind it to use a ramp instead.

The Grand Ballroom, which can accommodate about 1,900 people, is frequently used for large events such as college convocations and award ceremonies – events that involve audience members walking on the stage to accept awards or certificates.

"For such special occasions, we want to ensure that everyone can participate, and do so in a similar, if not identical, way," said Amanda Kraus, executive director of disability resources at the UA. Kraus is also assistant vice president for campus life and executive director of housing and residential life.

Though there are venues in Tucson with larger capacities than the Grand Ballroom, their stages do not allow everyone to access them the same way without retrofitting ramps or other temporary solutions, according to research done by staff in the UA Disability Resource Center. Experts from the center helped inform the stage's new design.

"The new stage design uses ramps for access and eliminates any steps," she added. "Not only will this provide equitable access for all participants, it models an effective way to design a stage that promotes our values of equity and inclusion."

While the space is used primarily for university events, groups outside the UA can rent it.

These renovations were the first updates to the Grand Ballroom since the Student Union Memorial Center was completed in 2003, said Todd Millay, senior director of Arizona Student Unions.

The stage's original configuration did not provide "a very good community experience," Millay said. "Universal design just makes a lot of sense."

Media contacts:
Todd Millay
Arizona Student Unions

Amanda Kraus
Disability Resource Center

Kyle Mittan
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the UA is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The UA ranked in the top 25 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The UA advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.