Trinity is installing concealed wheelchair lifts outside of the Exam Hall and the Chapel that will appear to be a part of the cobblestoned Front Square
The first of their kind of Ireland, the wheelchair lifts will emerge from the ground using cantilevers. Construction of the lifts is set to be finished by the end of July.
The project’s sponsor, the Director Disability Service, Declan Treanor, speaking to The University Times, said that Trinity is “doing something unique”. He said the project would have to be finished by the end of the month “because if it goes any later it goes into the new academic year”.
Treanor said that the project, which will see the installation of concealed lifts that emerge from the ground on cantilevered hoists, has been in the pipeline for “years”.
The Exam Hall and the Chapel are both protected buildings, meaning any potential changes to the buildings are subject to planning permission from Dublin City Council.
Treanor said: “One of the biggest issues we have is trying to convince the City Council to allow things to happen. They have these conservation architects, and you have this conflict constantly between conservation and accessibility.”
“Trinity always try very hard to put the two together to make sure that we’re not destroying buildings, but also making them accessible”, he said.
Treanor said the planned installation of lifts went through “significant consultation” before being approved two years ago.
The delay in the lift’s construction was due to a “complication around trying to find someone to do it”, he said. The project is being completed by a UK-based company.
The lifts are modelled on similar structures in Oxford and Cambridge, and their platforms will have the same finish as the surrounding cobbles in Front Square.
The lift will require an attendant, he said, due to health and safety issues: “I think there’s a bit of management around that, but it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect, it’s just because of the nature of the buildings – you’d want to ensure that everybody would have guidance in and out.”
Wheelchair access to the Exam Hall is currently provided by a ramp to the left of the building. Provost Patrick Prendergast, Treanor said, “was very keen on us finding a better solution than that awful thing that was out the front of the Exam Hall”.
Trinity is also exploring different options aimed at providing wheelchair access to the 1937 Reading Room, the Graduates Memorial Building (GMB) and the house of the provost. “We’ve had really good solutions to make sure those buildings are all going to be made accessible”, Treanor said.
“There’s going to be an internal lift proposed for the GMB, there’s an external one at the ‘37 to bring it in.”
He said College is “awaiting costs” before progressing to Dublin City Council with the plans. Treanor will decide in conjunction with Estates and Facilities, as well as the Bursar, Veronica Campbell, whether the proposals are viable.
“The GMB to us is a really important one, because students use those buildings because of the activities that go on in there”, he said.