In recent years, the need for accessible structures, transportation, and technology has become more prominent in architecture and design. This is especially true for universities. Although many universities have been making great strides towards providing equal accessibility, the following are Ascension’s top-5 universities currently leading the charge for equal accessibility:
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is home to a large adaptive athletics program that can boast many alumni that have won gold medals in Paralympic events. Alongside the impressive number of accommodations and campus life support programs, UI-Urbana offers to help with everything from academics to transportation both on and off campus. Their many online resources make their Disability Resources and Educational Services website worth more than just a look. What’s more, UI-Urbana was the first university to implement a disability support program when they started their program in 1948.
UC-Berkeley’s Disabled Students Program (DSP) accommodates the unique situations of around 1,700 students both on and off campus. Perhaps the most robust program of any university on this list, the DSP assists students in everything from locating housing to helping with event walkthroughs and route planning. UC-Berkeley is also part of the TRiO-S3 program, a federal program that works in conjunction with UC-Berkeley’s DSP to provide mentors, counseling, tutors, and financial assistance to students to help them transition to university life and succeed academically, financially, and socially. UC-Berkeley also works with a local bus service, AC Transit, to provide free local transportation to their students. Check out Berkeley’s DSP website for more details.
Located in Dayton Ohio, Wright State University has a few surprising entries on their accessibility resume. This midwestern university has a Personal Assistance Station staffed seven days a week during semester, and advertises an underground tunnel system for accessing campus buildings in inclement weather. Wright State’s Office of Disability Services (ODS) offers an adaptive recreational program featuring everything from adaptations to traditional athletic workouts to even kayaking for any members of the student body that wish to participate. The ODS also provides tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships to students with disabilities each year.
At Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, building accessibility awareness is a high priority. The Student Disability Resource (SDR) office not only provides all of the basic accommodations (interpreters, testing accommodations, etc.), but it also maintains resources to further educate faculty, staff and the student body on disability awareness and the importance of inclusion. The SDR even put together a user-friendly website that provides accessibility information, such as FAQs for instructors and answers to accommodation procedures and concerns. This website also provides a free link to an eBook for educators (and anyone else) on the subject of disability history, law, and the importance if inclusion.
Incidentally, Ames, Iowa is rated by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) as the fourth most accessible college town in the nation for 2016. This is partially due to Ames’ public bus service, CyRide, which offers door to door paratransit for a reasonable fare.
Founded in 1820, the Indiana University, Bloomington’s historic campus can be difficult to remodel. However, that did not stop IU-Bloomington from installing stairway lifts and elevators in many of their older buildings in response to the growing need for equal access. In addition, the university maintains a fleet of 27 buses fully-equipped to handle passengers in need of accessibility accommodations. IU-Bloomington also works in conjunction with The Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, an organization that strives to build accessibility awareness the Bloomington area as well as on the college campus. Visit their Disability Services for Students website for more information.
Additional Accessible Resources:
If you’re interested in accessible and universal design, check out the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) center.
For information on the laws which govern and operate disability resource programs at these and other universities, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education webpage.