An infusion of state and federal funds will enable Pierce College to make long-awaited improvements to increase the safety and accessibility of the campus for disabled students.
In an effort to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Los Angeles Community College District recently gave $1.5 million to Pierce.
Valley College and Mission College got lesser sums, but those amounts were not available.
Though ADA laws went into effect in the early 1990s, the campuses had to wait until the district had the funds to do the improvements, college officials said.
Work began at Pierce early this month and is expected to take about a year to complete.
It includes refurbishing 50 restroom facilities, adjusting and adding 15 wheelchair ramps, adding sidewalks and curb cuts to several roads on campus, and installing new handles and hinges that would make using doors easier.
Also, 20% of the concrete on the campus' main walkway will be replaced to alleviate trip-and-fall hazards there, said David Bush, facilities manager for Pierce.
Norm Crozer, director of special services at Pierce, said the majority of the campus is accessible, but the larger issue is the safety of students.
"We've come a long way, but there are still enough things that have to be done that this is going to be a welcome addition to what we're trying to do for students here," Crozer said.
Norma Jean Vescovo, executive director of Independent Living of Southern California in Van Nuys, said that disabled students from her organization found that Pierce had the most problems of the three campuses.
"Pierce has made minor changes, but typically they don't do anything until there is a bump in the road and they have to," she said.
Pierce College President E. Bing Inocencio acknowledged that the campus could have done better to accommodate the students, but said the money was not there to do that until now.