Armstrong Student Center makes accessibility a priority for disabled
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 01:10
The Armstrong Student Center (ASC), set to open in February 2014, is being constructed with disabled students in mind. According to the Director of the ASC, Katie Wilson, the building will accommodate all disabilities, both physical and cognitive.
According to The National Center for Education Statistics, 5 percent of Miami University students have registered with the Office of Disability Research (ODR). The office also reports that nationally, 11 percent of undergraduate college students have a disability.
Junior Audra Shoupe’s disability is unique, as it was brought on by an illness, rather than pre-existing physical impairment. As a Type 1 diabetic, Shoupe has to plan each part of her day out before it begins. She needs to know what blood sugar levels she needs to have in order to go about her daily activities.
After she was diagnosed last May, Shoupe registered with the ODR and began to receive help from the university to make sure her disability would not interfere with her work or classes.
Zeisler said ODR can help in a variety of ways, according to each individual’s needs. This can range from providing guide dogs, braille, academic resources, hearing devices and wheelchair accessibility among others.
Shoupe said she was relieved when she registered as disabled and began receiving help immediately.
“Living with Type 1 diabetes is harder than I thought, but it helps to have a university that is so accommodating and understanding to my needs,” Shoupe said.
Shoupe said one setback Miami has in regards to disability accommodation is the buildings on campus tend to be older.
According to Zeisler, Miami has a long-term plan to update every old building on campus to the standards set by the American Disabilities Association (ADA), as well as to ensure that every new building is in compliance with ADA requirements. This plan is expected to be fully complete by 2020.
Wilson said ASC will have completely accessible outside entrances, as well as three elevators inside the building for access to each floor. The showers in the building will be wheelchair accessible, as well as one bathroom stall in each bathroom.
Hearing devices can be provided in any room with auditory features, like the theater or meeting rooms. Braille is used on any sign posted in the building, and guide dogs are welcome in the building. Wilson said further accommodations will be provided as ASC becomes aware of the needs of students.
Project Manager of construction Rick Russell said ADA compliance was planned and approved before construction could begin.
“The building architect seriously considered the site before building,” Russell said. “ADA features were all approved before building and will be inspected again after completion to make sure they’re correct.”
Russell said, due to the sloping of the land on which they built the ASC, walkways will all be slanted around the building to provide universal access, and any entry or walkway with stairs will also have a ramp installed at the same site.
Zeisler said Miami has been making an effort to eliminate the difficulties that may come with steps for students with physical disabilities.
“We try to get away from steps when we can and put in ramps because everybody can use ramps and not everyone can use steps,” Zeisler said.
For students like Shoupe, one thing that can be an issue is walking to class in buildings on campus that are far away from where they live. According to Shoupe, it is important for her to have a place to park, because walking more than half an hour can drop her blood sugar to dangerous levels. ASC will have designated parking nearby, with spots specifically for disabled students or visitors, according to Wilson.
Shoupe said, overall, Miami has been very helpful to her, and she thinks ASC will be the same way.
“The Office of Disability Resources is exceptional at Miami,” Shoupe said. “They respect you and your privacy, while advocating for a better educational experience regardless of your disability.”
Zeisler said ODR is advocating for every student and for updated construction in every building. Zeisler explained that there is a student-centered approach to accessibility.