Accessibility Matters: Guilford College Campus

We at GuilCo SoJo, in an effort to raise awareness of disability issues on Guilford College campus,  present a look at the challenges students with disabilities at Guilford confront, as well as what some students are doing about it. Check back later for a video here!
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By Victor Lopez
Infographic by Linda Catoe

Friday, Jan. 20, marked the deadline for the college community to provide input on the draft of the Diversity Action Committee Accessibility Plan.

The plan, entitled, “Empathy, Equality, and Access: Report, Vision, and Recommendations for Disability Resources, the Learning Commons, and the Counseling Center/Mental Health Services,” seeks to make access on every level a part of the Strategic Long Range Plan.

However, when we look at the facts of access to the buildings on our campus, it stands to reason that we are falling short of these goals and truly need the Diversity Action Plan.

The vision for the plan is to ensure an equitable and inclusive Guilford community that is free of physical, attitudinal, informational and learning barriers. See the plans draft here.

According to the Center for Principle Problem Solving, there are 400 students on the Guilford campus with diagnosed disabilities, making Guilford’s percentage of students with disabilities the largest in the nation that does not have a comprehensive program.

Guilford’s disabilities service provides reactive accommodations, such as desks and doorways that accommodate those in wheelchairs.

CPPS scholars have noted several areas for improvement that are necessary in order for the college to manifest the idea of diversity from paper and ink into practical action.

Marissa Dungan, Amelia McLaughlin, Darius Verdell, and Reid Perkins were members of the CPPS board that outlined the following guidelines:

  1. All classroom desks begin to be replaced with regular height tables that will meet the needs of all students. Additionally, the college should install permanent tables, with power outlet access like the other tables, in the large lecture room in King Hall to allow students with disabilities to use a computer to take notes.
  2. Install push buttons to open doors at the wheelchair-accessible entrances of existing buildings, including but not limited to Archdale Hall, Dana Auditorium, Founders Hall and the dorms.
  3. Lower the elevator buttons on all floors and in the elevator itself in King Hall so students in wheelchairs can reach them.
  4. Create a subcommittee, optimally with at least one community member with disabilities, within the Multi-Cultural Pluralism Committee/Diversity Action Committee dedicated to discussing, addressing and preempting the issues preventing students, faculty and staff with disabilities from achieving their goals at Guilford College. This subcommittee should also act in conjunction with Disability Services department as an advisory board for any new buildings or facilities to be built on campus, as well as renovations to existing buildings to make sure the needs of all stakeholders are met.
  5. Integration of disability-themed movies like “Rory O’Shea was Here,” “Ray,” “My Left Foot,” “The Soloist,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” into the various diversity and tolerance themed film series on campus to raise awareness disability social issues.

Looking to the long term, the CPPS board outlined that the following should be implemented by the administration:

  1. That major renovations to current structures and facilities, which enable greater accessibility, are prioritized outlined and emphasized within the Strategic Long Term Plan of Guilford College.
  2. That Guilford College emphasizes its commitment to addressing all diversity issues with equal vigor, including specifically, the concerns of students, faculty and staff with disabilities within the Diversity Plan.
  3. That Guilford College adds at least four more staff members to the Disability Services department to assist in the oversight and distribution of assistive technology to the 400 students on campus with registered disabilities by 2011.
  4. That a comprehensive program for students with learning disabilities be introduced by 2015.
  5. That the Center for Principled Problem Solving continues to address disability-related issues within core values discussions and curricula.

Currently, those who are unable to walk and are otherwise handicapped are not able to make it past the entrances of all buildings at Guilford College, an issue that scholars from the CPPS are actively lobbying the college to address.

You can do your part by contacting Mark Justad at the Center for Principled Problem
Solving by email: justadmj@guilford.edu, to find out how you too can help in the cause of
making Guilford accessible to all.

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