Though we may not always realize it, Wichita State is truly an “Innovation University.” As a transfer student, I will admit that at first, I wasn’t convinced.
The halls where I have class are all 50-plus years old, and the elevators are regularly out of service. I might have even scoffed at the term when I learned that students with disabilities can’t get golf cart rides to the career office, due to Brennan Hall being located across 17th Street.
The question I kept running across was, “How can a university be innovative when it’s not inclusive to students with disabilities?”
The problem with being a WSU student is that everyone seems to talk about the things that go wrong or the things they don’t like. I’ve never heard someone give our college a positive review, so I’ve decided that it’s my time to stand up and do so.
At a time when major universities are being sued for their lack of American Disability Act compliance, WSU is making strides in the right direction. According to The New York Times, both Harvard and MIT are being sued for lack of closed captions on online course material. John Jones, WSU instructional design and technology manager, hopes to make sure that doesn’t happen by focusing on Universal Design.
Jones’ department serves as a faculty resource for Blackboard and online course design. Jones believes that ADA Compliant Design — or Universal Design — is good design.
“As an idea, we try to design our courses to be accessible to everyone without needing special tools,” Jones said.
WSU also is focusing on the physical campus, as well. Many buildings on campus are slated to get or are undergoing construction to make them more ADA compliant, benefiting the public, faculty and the estimated 3 percent of students with disabilities.
Grady Landrum, director of the Office of Disability Services, said “the university as a whole is ADA compliant, but there are things we can to do to make it more accessible.” Landrum also noted that a committee of faculty and students with disabilities review plans for new buildings.
As a student, I’m thankful WSU is striving to be innovative and inclusive, but for the time being, we as students must bear with the growing pains of becoming a better university.