Last week, I attended the Champions of Accessibility Celebration Dinner, hosted by the office of Accessible Campus Community & Equitable Student Support (ACCESS). I was especially moved by the "State of Accessibility" address delivered by Dalyn Wells.
Dalyn is a Mass Communications major with a minor in creative writing major. I had seen him around campus for a couple of years, and this semester, he's a student in one my classes.
During his address, Dalyn discussed the challenges of navigating campus as a person with physical disabilities. "There have been numerous occasions where I thought to myself,' I don’t want to do this anymore,'" he said, noting some of the troubles he faced gaining even the most basic access. "If you had asked [back then] me would I recommend SIUE to a person with disabilities," he said, "I would of said 'no,' but if you asked me that same question today I would say 'yes.'"
What changed? He pointed out that his overall experience at the university greatly improved based on an expansion of ACCESS and particularly the arrival of an important advocate: Dominic Dorsey, director of the office of Accessible Campus Community & Equitable Student Support (ACCESS).
Dalyn provided three recommendations for additional improvements on campus:
• "First, I think we should invest in shuttles that would transport people with physical disabilities everywhere on campus and certain places off campus. The weather in this area is so unpredictable, it can be hot one day and cold the next."
• "Secondly, why do doors have to be so heavy, especially when they don’t have the button to open themselves? How are we supposed to gain the knowledge that we need to receive our education, when we can’t even open the door? It feels like you are denying us that right even though we pay our tuition like everyone else on campus."
• "Third, we need to have better communication when it comes to rooms. There are some rooms that are more accessible than others as far as space and the way that they are made. Seating is important when it comes to people with disabilities. If a teacher has a student with disabilities he or she should meet with the student prior to the first day of class to make sure that the room is easily accessible to the student."
• The Champions of Accessibility Celebration Dinner
• Scenes from the Champions of Accessibility Celebration Dinner