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Accessibility upgrades come to The O’Shaughnessy Auditorium

Renovations will bring an accessible family restroom and other ADA improvements to The O'Shaughnessy Auditorium.
Renovations will bring an accessible family restroom and other ADA improvements to The O'Shaughnessy Auditorium.
Photo by Tony Nelson.

In less than a month, The O’Shaughnessy Auditorium will have more features to offer guests with disabilities. The auditorium, which was designed in the 1960s and opened in 1970, will add accessible ticket counters and triple the number of accessible bathrooms in the south lobby.

Most of the renovations are taking place in The O'Shaughnessy lobby, where Director Kathleen Spehar says short-term construction can make the most difference for individuals with disabilities. Inside the house, the auditorium will also double the amount of accessible seating by repurposing some existing chairs and seating areas.

"We're really thrilled that this is happening right now," said Director Kathleen Spehar, who has been looking for ways to improve accessibility since she came to The O'Shaughnessy in 2011. "We're living our values."

The modifications come after the construction of an accessible ramp that was added a few years ago, allowing handicap-accessible entry to the auditorium from the quad at St. Catherine University.

The O'Shaughnessy already offers side accessible entrance ramps and accessible seating areas on the first floor, but the new restrooms and ticket counters will offer significant improvements toward compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They will also create a more welcoming space for diverse groups and individuals with mobility concerns.

"The more accessible we can make this building, the more business we can attract," said Spehar.

In order to maintain the look and feel of The O'Shaughnessy building, auditorium staff have partnered with Michial Mularoni, an architect from Mularoni & Co Architecture who was also a student of the original architect, to match the renovations to the existing design.

Current renovations are funded by a grant from VSA Minnesota, a non-profit agency that works to make the arts accessible to people with disabilities, and by St. Catherine University funds.

With further funding, the project could be the start of major renovations for the venue.

Spehar said the staff will apply for more funds through VSA Minnesota and seek other funding options, with the hopes of making other improvements and eventually adding an elevator to The O'Shaughnessy lobby. While an elevator is still just a vision for the auditorium, making each floor of the auditorium handicap-accessible would benefit both general audiences and the school groups that use the space throughout the year.

Construction on The O’Shaughnessy lobby began in April with completion expected by the end of June.

June 3, 2013 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Arts