Campus accessibility a goal for MU

MU sends out e-mails to inform students and faculty of sidewalk closings.

With the opening of the fall semester, MU is employing its resources in order to accommodate its physically disabled students.

Students with disabilities are required to register with the Office of Disability Services in order to receive special accommodations. According to the department’s website, this office then works with other departments to create a campus setting that is as integrated as possible while catering to the needs of the handicapped.

In partnership with Residential Life, the Office of Disability Services works to provide disabled students with living spaces that cater to their unique needs. According to the Residential Life website, residence halls can easily accommodate simple changes to rooms such as changing the type of door lock and lowering racks, shelves and mirrors. Further modifications can be made on a case-by-case basis.

All MU’s on-campus residence halls have elevator access to upper levels, with Defoe-Graham becoming the last hall to add elevators with its 2009 re-opening. Residential Life Director Frankie Minor said Residential Life has also worked in the past to provide disabled students with ground-level rooms.

MU’s extended housing facilities at Tiger Diggs and Mizzou Quads lack such amenities because though MU rents out these facilities, it is not responsible for their condition.

“Those are private apartment complexes,” Minor said. “We have rented a portion of these. We’re managing students, programs and staff at those facilities, but maintenance responsibilities are up to the owners of the complex.”

In case of a temporary disability such as a leg injury, Residential Life can work to provide a student with short-term modifications or a new room, provided that he or she registers with Disability Services.

Residential Life can also tailor to a student’s academic plan. Although MU’s learning communities are housed within specific halls, disabled students can join a community that is housed in a different facility if that facility does not meet their needs.

“I think ResLife has a very good track record,” Minor said. “We want our facilities to be accessible to our students, whether they have a permanent or temporary disability, and we get good feedback from students, staff and parents.”

MU’s buses are all lift-equipped for students who live in off-campus apartments.

Although Residential Life frequently works with disabled students, MU is faced with the challenges of extensive construction. Most of MU’s major construction projects were completed over summer break, but some remaining construction areas require sidewalk closings.

“All the sidewalk closings and repair work throughout the summer and fall are very problematic,” Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator Lee Henson said. “It’s extremely difficult for people in wheelchairs and people who are blind to navigate sometimes when roads are closed or areas like the area just south of Engineering are blocked off.”

Although the university has previously sent e-mails to inform the staff and student body of upcoming road closings, the alerts have recently been expanded to include sidewalk closings after a student suggested the idea. Such zones now feature signs indicating the nearest available ramp or sidewalk.

“We started (issuing sidewalk closing information) earlier in the summer and I know that a lot of disabled students, faculty and staff have found that very helpful,” Campus Facilities spokeswoman Karlan Seville said.

MU also tries to minimize the inconveniences posed by its projects at the time of planning.

“What we try to do is build in accommodations when projects are designed, so the university makes sure that when the project is planned, they consider available routes and options,” Henson said.

The university has staff on-hand to handle such questions.

“We have a construction manager on staff that gives presentations nationally on the American Disabilities Act, and he has been instrumental in making sure that MU complies with all ADA requirements,” Seville said. “We all work together to make sure we have the least impact possible on disabled students.”

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