Getting to classes across campus and dodging 30,000 other students can be difficult for anyone, but the circumstances are especially unique for students with disabilities.
BYU offers many resources for these students, including accessible design of buildings, the University Accessibility Center and Accessibility Week to foster understanding among all students on campus.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 became a law in 1992, requiring all public buildings to be made accessible to all users. Buildings must have at least one entrance with an automatic door, an elevator that reaches each level, braille signage and Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDD). Even with these regulations, implementing them on a campus with such a unique layout can be a challenge.
“BYU is located on an elevated site from the west, which inherently poses accessibility problems,” explained Karla Nielson, former professor of interior design. “Sports facilities are on lower campus, with the majority of classroom buildings on the hill to the east.”
Accessibility Awareness Week also increases awareness on campus by giving other students the opportunity to experience, in a small way, what life is like for a student with disabilities. This year’s Accessibility Awareness Week was Sept. 16-20. Many students took the “challenge” and received a T-shirt for participating, explained Ron Jones, assistant director of student leadership.
The University Accessibility Center also provides resources to help students with physical, hearing, visual, learning, attention and emotional concerns reach their potential at BYU. Eleanor Pope is a public health major from England and an employee in the Accessibility Center. She explained that accessibility standards are high across campus, but the center is always striving for improvement.
“Our office does a good job in monitoring to be sure things are up to standards with ADA,” Pope said. “We are always trying to keep up with new technology … to make sure students are both physically and academically able to succeed.”
The center encourages students who think they may have a disability to come into the office and speak with a counselor. Besides these resources, other students can help those with disabilities by being good friends.
“Those with limitations … are just like you and me, but were given a challenge that helps others to learn to be more Christlike,” Nielson said. “Be compassionate, friendly, helpful, but never condescending. Look at the person in the eye, and treat them as you would want to be treated.”