Although the University of West Florida’s (UWF) modest total student enrollment of less than 13,000 makes it relatively small, its impact is unquestionable. In addition to the University’s NCAA Division II sports program, it is also a participating space-grant institution that provides $1.47 billion in total annual sales for the Florida economy.
The University is also home to 300 formally registered individuals to the Students with Disabilities Resource Center (SDRC). The SDRC provides support and accommodation to all students who may require it by offering enrollment and housing assistance, as well as a program tailored to military veterans.
UWF’s Accessibility Concerns
In an effort to continue their mission and broaden their support of the community, the UWF began exploring options to provide equal access on their campus. “At the time, we were looking for cost effective ways to get people with disabilities on a stage,” said Mathew McKinney, Assistant Director of Reservations and Operations at UWF. “We had been messing around with ramps but they were too big to store. We’d also have to drag them out, and it would take all day to set up and then tear down again.”
After researching accessibility options, the UWF decided to purchase an Ascension Virtuoso portable wheelchair lift, primarily due to its ease of use and its low-profile. “Each time the wheelchair lift is requested, our students bring it out, set it up, and make sure it is operational,” said McKinney.
The UWF hosts several community organizations that use the campus to hold events throughout the year. One such event utilizes the University’s conference rooms for a recognition ceremony. “There is an outside group that rents our ballroom every year for their, ‘Hero’s Event,’” said McKinney. “They sponsor groups that are affiliated with underprivileged and disabled children and [they] always request the wheelchair lift.”
There are over 88,000 total degrees conferred from UWF. In addition, the University can lay claim to alumni, such as former NASA Astronaut Bruce Melnick.