Erin O'Brien welcomed visitors to the Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services by standing in the center of a large, black fabric circle she had placed on the floor.
The 60-inch circle, she said, was the amount of space required for someone to successfully maneuver a wheelchair 360-degrees.
It was a symbolic demonstration to initiate the open house for the newly renovated OSD/DS offices on the first floor of Donahue, but also a practical one: O'Brien, an HCC learning specialist, said the circular template was available for staff to borrow to see if their offices on campus were fully accessible to people using wheelchairs.
"HCC has always had a reputation for being open to all students," said President William Messner. "Our reputation for serving students who require additional services has spread. But one thing we did not have was a facility to complement the great staff we have to serve students. Now, our facility is really one deserving of the students we serve and the faculty and staff who serve them."
Dozens of students and staff turned out for a ribbon-cutting and celebration in Donahue 147. O'Brien explained many of the changes reflected in the designs for the renovated offices: wheelchair accessible counter heights, height adjustable desks, unobstructed paths of travel, bulletin boards, white boards, coat hooks mounted for access to all, better lighting, improved accessibility in bathrooms.
"What I think is significant about this, " said Bill Fogarty, vice president of Administration and Finance, "it says, if you are a student and have a special challenge in your life, you are welcome here, we really value you and we're really glad to have you at HCC."
Yanina Vargas, vice president of Student Affairs, noted that on a visit to campus, her 13-year-old nephew remarked how much he liked the inclusivity of the HCC campus. "Everyone is welcome here," her nephew said. "You can feel it."Photos: (Left) Debbie Geoffroy, Deaf Services specialist, interprets for Deaf students and staff at the open house. (Right) HCC President William Messner, far left, Yanina Vargas, vice president of Student Affairs, and others join in for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting inaugurating the newly renovated Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services.