After a summer of renovations, the Office for Accessible Campus Community & Equitable Student Support now calls a space roughly three times the size of its original office home. ACCESS showcased Friday during its grand opening.
According to Director Dominic Dorsey, ACCESS staff moved into the space Aug. 1, but the office was not fully finished until recently — just in time for its grand opening. The event consisted of a ribbon-cutting ceremony as well as a tour by Dorsey through the new space.
The former ACCESS office was converted into an area specifically designed for testing, including a push-button door for those using wheelchairs and a one-way mirror for test monitoring.
The extended space includes a conference room that functions as a meeting space for staff and community partners as well as a study area for students. There is also space for graduate and practicum students to complete their tasks.
“We have a space for our graduate assistants and our practicum students to work out of, which is critical because a lot of the work that they do requires them to either work independently and have separate meetings or they have to shut a door and work on projects extensively,” Dorsey said.
Current practicum student and senior social work major Grace Flacke, of St. Louis, said she believes the new space will also help fulfill ACCESS’ goal of working more with her department.
“I know Dominic right now really wants to involve the social work department in kind of a social work aspect for services and for this to just be a place that’s more accessible,” Flacke said.
The new space also includes what Dorsey described as a “living room” area, furnished with a couch and display of awards. ACCESS student worker and sophomore psychology major Elaina Rossman, of Knoxville, Illinois, said this makes the space more welcoming and home-like, which she believes makes students more comfortable when seeking ACCESS’ resources.
“I just think [it’s important] because it’s kind of hard in general to talk about disability,” Rossman said. “It’s a nervous process that people have to go through, especially if they didn’t have [Individualized Education Programs] and stuff in high school, so this is new to them. It just makes it more welcoming and it makes it easier for students to come in and get the help that they need, because this is what ACCESS is all about.”
Dorsey said the brightness of the new space, it being large enough for all to easily navigate through and it being easily visible to those passing through the Student Success Center also contribute to helping students feel more comfortable when entering ACCESS.
Dorsey said all the updates and additions to the space were done intentionally to help maximize ACCESS’ benefits.
“Every component within that space is very intentional — nothing was left to chance, nothing was done happenstance,” Dorsey said. “We wanted to make sure everything was done with a purpose, and the purpose made sense for the students and the individuals we serve.”
According to Dorsey, the renovation and expansion was much needed, as the number of students registered with ACCESS is soaring. ACCESS has already registered almost 800 students, even though they expected to reach 750 over the span of the year, Dorsey said.
“We had our testing and our graduate assistants and our student workers all crammed into this very, very tight space that was almost claustrophobic,” Dorsey said. “We had just outgrown it significantly. We were always looking for additional space for testing and reserving additional rooms — it just wasn’t conducive to what we were doing.”
For more information about ACCESS’ mission and the services it offers, visit https://www.siue.edu/access/.