Disabled customers not forgotten in new mall design

SARASOTA -- The Mall at University Town Center has gone above and beyond what the federal government requires for handicapped customers.

Along with the required handicap parking and required power doors for wheelchairs, mall developers have installed elevators with reassuring glass visibility and larger cabs, taller letters and braille on merchant's signs, and touch screen directories that are at wheelchair height, said Jeff Boes, director of planning and design for Taubman.

"We did a count and we have 92 handicapped parking stalls on the site and all of them are placed conveniently to mall entries," Boes said. The mall has more than 4,100 parking places.

The 92 spaces include spots in front of Macy's, Dillards' and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The new mall has six main entrances, one each on the east and west and two each on the north and south. All six will have American with Disabilities Act-compliant power hardware so that the doors will open automatically for wheelchairs, Boes said.

The mall will not have electric scooters or carts, but will have collapsible wheelchairs as a courtesy, Boes said.

There are two large family restrooms, one on each of the mall's two levels and a smaller family restroom near the mall's play area.

"All three restrooms are ADA compliant," Boes said.

In the common areas of the new mall, architects kept a 10-foot minimum width to handle circulation. Within the stores themselves, some of the isles are tighter.

The mall has four elevators, two in the middle of the mall and one at each end. The two in the middle are completely glass and the ones at either end have glass fronts and doors.

"Wheelchairs are welcome on all four elevators," Boes said. "We over-sized the elevator cab for added clearance."

The elevators can accommodate several wheelchairs at one time.

The signs will feature lettering that is at least 2 inches tall, for better visibility. Also, all signs must be 5 feet off the floor, Boes said.

There will be seven automatic directories in the mall and all are interactive.

"It's a touch screen and the customer will be able to find out where they are and how to get to where they want to go," Boes said.

There is a directory at each end of the upper and lower level. There are three more shared between the Grand Court area at both levels.

For customers who enjoy human interaction, a customer service desk will be located just inside the west entry, which is the main entrance.

The Grand Court will have seating with small tables and one of those will be dedicated for use by people with disabilities.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.