Mizzou Disability Coalition leads Student Accessibility Walk

MU is trying to make its campus more accessible, and the Disability Coalition wants students to be aware of issues relating to students with disabilities.
Graphic Graphic by Mizzou Disability Coalition

MU students were led throughout campus by members of the Mizzou Disability Coalition on Thursday as part of the first Student Accessibility Walk. Students were educated about issues facing disabled members of the MU community and encouraged to think about how their routes would be different if they were only able to use accessible entrances.

Students left from Memorial Student Union and went on a walk spanning most of MU’s campus. Leaders led the tour and pointed out issues relating to accessibility. One such leader was master’s of occupational therapy student and Disability Coalition leader Megan Stober.

“We’ve had an accessibility walk for only administrators for the last couple of years,” Stober said. “This is the first one we’ve done for students.”

Some of the key issues that were emphasized for the participants were related to event planning. Stober said it is very important to plan ahead in order to ensure that an event will be accessible to anyone who might wish to attend. It is important to ensure that accessible entrances are available and advertised, she said. Additionally, presentations should include closed captioning, and any visuals should be large and should be described orally for those who cannot see them.

Another major part of the walk was pointing out issues relating to accessibility and accessible routes around campus. MU has gone through many recent changes, Stober said, including changing the designs of accessible parking signs to be more empowering, adding more parking and increasing the use of talking elevators and intersections for those with visual impairments.

“A lot of different areas are improving right now,” Stober said.

One such area that she has been happy to see improvements in is the accessibility of Greek life. This year was the first year that Greek Week Fling events used closed captioning, and many houses are working to see how they can become more accessible, Stober said.

However, there is still more that could be done.

“Right now, professors could be a little bit more accommodating with accommodations through the disability center,” Stober said. “Thinking about universal design when we build new buildings and renovate existing ones is important as well.”

Stober said that the Disability Coalition has spoken with Chancellor Alexander Cartwright about these issues.

“He has been really great about hearing our concerns and thinking about the future and how we can make [the future] more accessible,” Stober said.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Freshman Sophia Martino uses a wheelchair and participated in the walk.

“Out of all the colleges I looked at, Mizzou was by far the most accessible,” Martino said. “There are certainly areas to improve, but as a whole it is accessible.”

Martino also stressed the importance of events like this as a way of students being able to empathize with their peers who are disabled.

“A lot of people do not realize that their routes are not very accessible and they would need a whole different route that might take much longer,” Martino said. “I feel like everyone should do a walk like this.”

At the end of the walk, the organizers encouraged participants to remain mindful of accessibility on campus especially when planning events. They also encouraged everyone to attend the Mizzou Disability Coalition’s meetings, which occur on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For any students seeking accommodations, the MU Disability Center is located on the bottom floor of Memorial Union South and can be contacted at disabilitycenter@missouri.edu.

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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