Keene State College’s Director of Disabilities Services said they have done their best to accommodate students of all needs, but KSC students may not agree.
The Director of Disabilities Services at KSC, Jane Warner said, “Keene has been very planful in terms of our campus with new buildings and any kind of changes and adaptations of buildings, really thinking about physical access to these buildings.”
Warner explained that she only thought there was one building on campus that wasn’t accessible for handicapped individuals and that was the Blake House, because there is no elevator to classrooms in the basement.
KSC also has many technological installments such as tablets and SMART Boards within the classroom setting to help those with disabilities learn what they need to, according to Warner. Warner then went on to explain improvements KSC is making.
“One of the improvements that has been ongoing is updating our website, which has been an important thing because that’s how many people first had their first experience with Keene. So, all the offices have had their websites redone so that when a visually-impaired person clicks on it they have the text that is able to be read to them from their computer,” Warner said.
She also said the new residential halls that are to be built are going to be looked at by KSC disability services to reassure their accessibility for handicapped individuals.
“One of the concepts the campus has embraced is universal design. So it means that we’re designing a campus that has access built into it so whether you’re pushing a stroller or you’re in a wheelchair or whatever your disability is, that you can access and get around and it looks natural,” Warner said.
She added that she thinks the grounds crew has always done a great job making sure the main pathways on campus are cleared and very responsive for people with mobility and visual problems.
In regards to administration, Warner said, “I will say that the administration has always been very supportive of the Office of Disabilities Services and working with our students to make sure they have the accommodations they need to access their classrooms.”
Warner made it clear that students with disabilities need to approach the disabilities office with documentation and discuss with the office what their specific needs are so they can be accommodated individually.
According to Warner, about 450 students with disabilities come through the office and there are many more students with disabilities that don’t use the office for accommodation.
Warner explained that it is the Office of Disabilities Services job to transition students with disabilities into KSC and out again when they graduate.
A sophomore at KSC and a staff writer for The Equinox, Jacob Barrett has a mobility disability. He said his biggest challenge is just getting around campus, especially with the snow because the walkways aren’t always shoveled or cleared.
“When the snow is really bad or just freshly fallen on the ground it’s really kind of difficult to drag my walker through the snow,” Barrett said. He said this has prevented him from going to class and the dining commons because it puts stress on him and his joints.
Barrett explained how he lived on the first floor of Carle last year and it prevented him from ever going upstairs and hanging out with his friends. He said otherwise, KSC for the most part is accessible.
Junior at KSC, Mark Oosterman is visually impaired. Oosterman said he was in a car accident only four years ago that left him visually impaired. Everything from writing and reading to walking on campus is challenging Oosterman explained.
However, Oosterman added that KSC is an easy campus to maneuver around because it’s small, flat and there’s lots of friendly people in the KSC community that he feels he could ask for help anytime he needed. He said that he uses familiar landmarks, sun direction, and noises to manage his way around campus.
Oosterman said he feels the grounds keepers are great and he understands when there is heavy snow, they do the best they can.
The Office of Disability Services also does a great job accommodating him, according to Oosterman. He explained how the office scans all his books to a PDF so the computer can read the material back to Oosterman.
Oosterman added he can go to the office for almost anything and they are very helpful. Like anything, there is always room for improvement, Oosterman said, but the system that the school has now for students with disabilities is great.
As far as his condition, it gets easier each day and he is still learning, he explained.
Trainer from Advocacy, Consulting and Training [ACT] For Social Justice, Mel Motel did a workshop at KSC focused on disabilities in February.
Motel said she’s no expert, but from her experience at the workshop and feedback from the students and faculty that participated, there is still much work to be done on KSC’s campus. The participants said there needs to be a universal design on campus, according to Motel.
She explained that not all disabilities are visible, such as learning disabilities or mental illness which she mentioned have been a big problem on other campuses concerning negative views from others. She also said there is still so much to continue learning.
There will be a wrap-up session on March 27, from 3:30 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. at KSC in the Student Center Atrium Conference Room where, according to Motel, ACT For Social Justice will lead students and faculty in making those improvements they feel need to happen.
Savanna Balkun can be contacted at email@example.com