Winter Barriers to Campus Accessibility

Project Scope


CU Boulder


Secondary Research, Observations, Interviews


6 months

My Role

UX researcher



Urban Planner

UX Designer



Within the United States, educational institutions must ensure buildings have accessible entrances as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a leading public university, CU Boulder has a population of over 36,000 undergraduate students, over 4,000 of which registered for disability accommodations in 2022. In Boulder, an average of 23% of days between October and April have an inch or more of snow on the ground. While buildings on campus have been retrofitted or constructed with features like ramps to comply with ADA requirements, this improved accessibility infrastructure is futile if snow and winter hazards prevent mobility-impaired community members from navigating campus paths at all.

Percentage of CU Boulder buildings constructed before the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990

Need Statement

Address non-functioning accessible entrances and routes on CU Boulder’s campus due to winter hazards so that all people can access buildings regardless of their mobility level.

Existing Solutions

Gallaudet University

Solution: Prioritizes clearing accessible entrances to buildings
Strengths/Limits: Universities with limited resources could benefit by prioritizing clearing accessible entrances after winter storms

Augsburg University

Solution: Provides an emergency hotline, salt buckets, and a skywalk system.
Strengths/Limits: Hotline and salt buckets are affordable options, and skywalks protects from all elements. However, skywalks are costly and not feasible for all.

University of Minnesota

Solution: Has an underground path & skywalk system that connects the majority of campus buildings.
Strengths/Limits: Skywalks + underground path system protects from elements, but students have noted how difficult navigation is. It’s easy to get lost.

University of Pennsylvania

Solution: PennAccess tool details accessibility information for campus buildings. The Disability Advocacy student union also has a seat on the university’s council.
Strengths/Limits: PennAccess tool is considered to be useful but doesn’t solve for outdated campus infrastructure. Having students on the university council could help make staff more aware of accessibility issues on campus.

Target Users

The project focuses on students with mobility challenges who depend on mobility aids, including wheelchairs, crutches, or walkers, to maneuver around campus.

Partnership with facilities management to provide their team with critical and timely information so hazards can be addressed.

SWOT Analysis

Helpful to achieving objective

Unhelpful to achieving objective

Potential Opportunities

Potential Threats

Gap Analysis

Need Criteria

Must Haves

  • Fits into current workflow, capacity, and budget of Facilities Maintenance Office
  • Low maintenance requirement once established
  • Intuitive and easy to use, fewest number of failed use attempts possible 
  • All weather accessibility solution

Nice to Haves

  • Responsive to comments of disabled community at CU
  • Works on every accessible path/entrance on campus
  • Requires minimal effort on the part of CU’s disabled community

Proposed Solution

Drawing inspiration from Colorado’s road conditions map, our solution is to create enhancements to the existing CU Boulder interactive map to represent the real time conditions of localized paths and entrances during inclement weather.

Project Goal & Implementation

The primary goal of this project is to update the current interactive CU Boulder campus map to include additional features that support students with disabilities.

To achieve this, we will implement several features:

  1. Real-time conditions of localized paths and entrances during inclement weather
  2. Method for gathering feedback from campus community for real-time obstacle reporting
  3. Real-time weather reporting within a two hour margin

By developing these mapping features, we hope to improve the reported satisfaction of people with mobility challenges as they plan a route and navigate campus during poor weather conditions.

Project Milestones

Budget & Timeline

Following our activity plan, we anticipate the following budget and timeline for this project:

  • Total project length is expected to take 3 months to complete
  • Project will begin on April 28th, 2024 with the review of CU Boulder’s current mapping functionalities and features
  • Project will end on August 1st, 2024 with a communications plan to inform stakeholders of the product release
  • The total project budget is $72,000. This includes:
  • $58,000 for internal team funding
  • $10,000 for CU Boulder staff supporting integration of the platform,
  • $200 for user incentive during participatory testing phase
  • $3,280 for distribution of promotional materials around campus
  • Remaining budget will go towards software and office supplies

Monitoring & Evaluation Plan

The project will be monitored and evaluated based on below five categories:


Has there been a measurable decrease in mobility related incidents on campus during winter months since the mapping platform has been implemented?


How effectively does the new mapping platform allow students with disabilities to plan their campus routes during winter months?


Are there any features within the mobility mapping platform that could be improved or streamlined to enhance efficiency?


Are the mapping features and navigation capabilities relevant for students with disabilities? Do they address the challenges experienced by students with disabilities on campus?


What plans and budget are in place to ensure the long-term maintenance of the new mapping platform?

Final Proposal

Here is the link to the final proposal.