COLLEGE STATION – The Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University has been selected by the Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD), in partnership with the Accessibility Specialists Association (APA), to receive the annual APA/GCPD Accessibility Awards.

The other winner is the White Rock Branch Library in Dallas.

The awards recognize businesses and organizations that have gone above and beyond the legal requirements to provide both physical and service accessibility to people with disabilities.

”The Aggie Family on campus is honored to accept this award,” said Lt. Gen. Joe Weber USMC (Ret.), Texas A&M’s vice president for student affairs. “We certainly did not renovate this facility with the intent of winning an award for meeting/exceeding government code. The students who supported, planned and participated in the renovation of the Memorial Student Center did so with the intent of providing and encouraging access for all Aggies and their guests. It was truly work done out of a genuine consideration and respect for all who come to visit the most treasured building in Aggieland.”

Originally built in 1951, the Memorial Student Center (MSC) is popularly known as "The Living Room of Texas A&M." The MSC underwent an extensive expansion and renovation focusing on the intent to preserve the original design. Design was done by Perkins + Will, Dallas, and construction was by Vaughn Construction, Houston.

It reopened in 2012 and the organizers of the Accessibility Awards say “both the new 100,000-square-foot expansion and the $340,000 renovation incorporate a dedicated focus on a sense of community and accessibility to all; in fact, people with disabilities and a professional accessibility consultant were employed to help with design plans and to provide input on everything from physical accessibility, to fully accessible signage, to staff training on disability etiquette.”

They add that the physical layout of the MSC utilizes abundant natural light, open floor plans and wide corridors. All exterior entrances have automatic openers and their clearances exceed legal requirements. Attractive ramps and paved walkways turned the original jumble of stairs, steps and obstacles into a fully accessible facility, including the courtyard.

“I know the students will be pleased, as are we, because the award validates that we met one of our project imperatives of making the MSC more welcoming to everyone,” says Sherry Wine, director of the University Center Complex.

In congratulating Texas A&M and the MSC, Jo Virgil, community outreach and information coordinator with the Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities, said “the Accessibility Professionals Association and the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities are both proud to honor you with this award, and to spotlight your efforts to go above and beyond the letter of law in terms of physical and service accessibility. We appreciate your efforts and hope that other venues will pick up on some of your ideas to make their site accessible to all.”

Nominations for the awards were submitted by individuals and organizations from communities throughout the state. Site visits and interviews were conducted by Registered Accessibility Specialists who are members of the Accessibility Professionals Association (APA), and by local community contacts familiar with disability service issues.

The winners were honored at the APA/GCPD Accessibility Awards Ceremony in conjunction with the APA Annual Conference and Training on Jan. 24 at the Austin Marriott Hotel North in Round Rock.

For more information on the awards and the event, contact Virgil at jo.virgil@governor.state.tx.us or (512) 463-5740, or contact Fred Cawyer of APA, at fredcawyer@aol.com or (972) 285-2445.