Approximately 3 percent of the K-State student body is living with a disability. This is equivalent to more than 600 students.
This percentage only includes those who have officially documented their disabilities with the Student Access Center. Out of those 600 students, 95 percent of them have a disability that is not visible. According to the center’s website, these non-visible disabilities include learning disabilities, ADHD, psychological, or traumatic brain injury.
The remaining 5 percent, however, possess visible disabilities like blindness or low vision, deafness or hard-of-hearing, or physical impairments.
The Student Access Center helps to provide equal access and opportunity to all campus programs and services for students with disabilities. With the support and help of the entire campus community, the center works to ensure that everyone can fully experience university life.
“There have been a lot of changes with how society views people with disabilities and just being more inclusive so we wanted to follow that pattern (with our services),” Andrea Blair, director of the Student Access Center, said. “I have two sign language interpreters on staff, two other disability advisers, an administrative assistant and a testing center coordinator.”
The center provides several accommodations for students with varying disabilities, including alternative text, service animals, testing centers, assistance with lectures, listening devices, housing services and transportation.
For instance, the Area Transportation Agency Bus is a local transportation service open to everybody, but specifically helps those who need assistance in mobility. Neither the university nor the center, however, is required to provide a transportation service for students.
“As a university K-State always wanting to be helpful, we continue using the transportation service to help all students,” Blair said.
When Blair looks at other universities’ programs that help provide equal access to students with disabilities, K-State stands out as one of the most supportive.
“My colleagues at other schools are envious because our faculty, our staff and the people are just very accommodating and helpful,” Blair said. “They go out of their way to make sure students have above the minimum.”
Although the center’s staff is well-equipped to handle disabilities, the university itself is not. Many of the buildings at K-State are not up-to-date in terms of disability access.
“The campus is old and buildings are old; the disability access doors are typically in the back of old buildings and that’s kind of the way it is,” Blair said. “That’s unfortunate.”
In regards to remodeling of old buildings and the building of new ones on campus, Blair said she applauds K-State’s efforts to make new buildings more accessible.
“I think the university is doing a great job with all of the new building that’s going on to think about things like stair-less entries,” Blair said.
Little changes in buildings, like stair-less entries and elevators, are not the only things helping students with disabilities; technology is also making an impact. As professors started to post PowerPoints on K-State Online, all students, including those with disabilities, benefitted. Adding work online and making email easily accessible is a huge step for those especially with learning disabilities.
Working in a place like the Student Access Center has allowed Blair to understand individuals with a variety of disabilities.
“It’s years of experience that I can understand and feel compassion for students,” Blair said. “It’s made me a compassionate person to understand that we are all different and we are all still individuals.”
Despite the K-State atmosphere of inclusiveness and supportive, there is still a need for change. The Student Access Center is still seeing several students and Blair said she hopes this will no longer be the case someday.
“We can all just be inclusive and then we don’t need an access center,” Blair said. “As people live their day-to-day lives and make decisions, think about their perspective. Instead of putting stairs and ramp, why don’t we just put a ramp?”
Article written by Morgan Huelsman.