By Michelle Bennett
Program Associate, Women’s and Diversity Center
Accessibility means that individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services within the same timeframe as individuals without disabilities, with equivalent ease of use.
During “Social Justice Week,” which took place Feb. 12 through 16, the Women’s and Diversity Center hosted a contest titled “How Accessible is your Campus?” The objective was to identify something on campus inside or outside the classroom that could be improved in order to be more inclusive of everyone on campus. Participants were asked to identify an area of improvement and explain why the identified issue is not inclusive of everyone. The contest received several excellent responses that highlighted issues ranging from facilities to roadways and repairs.
Kristina Landen took the requirements a step further by providing solutions to each identified area of improvement. Her areas of improvement included accessibility obstacles in various public areas including the Student Union and Mailroom. “I enjoyed participating in the ‘How Accessible Is Your Campus?’ contest because it allowed me to draw attention to aspects of our campus which may not accommodate everyone. I hope some of the suggestions I made are acted upon to increase the accessibility of our campus for all,” said the first place winner.
Other participants highlighted issues relating to accommodating individuals in wheelchairs, scooters, or those who have difficulty navigating around maintenance and repair areas on campus. One participant, Kara Brennion, emphasized a recent facilities project which closed off sidewalks on either side of the library. “While most students walked around the blocked sidewalk into the rocks, those that [sic] are handicapped had to walk/scooter/roll far around adding a long distance to their trek or risk walking on the rocks.”
This is dangerous and unnecessarily cumbersome, she explained, for those who have trouble with their walking or who tire easily. “This could have been easily solved by having facilities work on one grate at a time, which would keep open the other walkway.” Kara Brennion added, “Accessibility is essential for academic institutions to thrive. I am excited that Embry-Riddle is growing and pursuing a more inclusive environment for all.”
Nicholas Mallott, second place winner, identified areas in campus housing and campus roadways to improve to be more inclusive of the student body. “This contest has provided a unique and actionable opportunity to provide a new voice to issues that have been present on campus for years. We already know that we do not have ample lighting nor good crosswalks in the Thumb Butte areas: which have been there for almost 20 years. By calling attention to issues like these, I have felt like my voice and the voices of all our students may be acknowledged and heard and we may finally make lasting improvements not only for students in the Disability Support Services community, but for those in our ERAU family who have to cross non-existent pathways, or dodge cars that can’t see pedestrians crossing the roads. These are quality of life improvements, and I am proud to endorse them through this contest.”
Marcee Keller, Director of the Disability Support Services (DSS) at Embry-Riddle shared her thoughts on the contest, “What a fabulous student-driven project this was! Assuring a welcoming, inclusive, accessible environment requires awareness and action from the entire campus community. I’m excited for the collaborative energy that’s growing here. We all benefit.”
The collection of insightful and important tips helps create a university environment welcoming and inclusive for everyone. The information collected during the contest will be used to advocate for improvements around campus.
Marcee Keller, Director of Disability Support Services, is responsible for assigning reasonable and appropriate accommodations or “work-arounds” for qualified students for equal access in the classroom and residence halls.
David Hall, Chief Business Officer, oversees budget, finance, planning and construction (including physical modifications according to the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA), contracts, facilities, management, and safety.