ACCESS is requesting higher funds to purchase items that will aid students with mental and physical disabilities.

Dominic Dorsey, director of ACCESS, said that an increase in funds would help to make SIUE more accessible for all students.

“What a lot of people don’t really understand is, while we do get a budget from the university to be able to take care of salaries and things to that nature, The Americans with Disabilities Act is an unfunded mandate,” Dorsey said. 

Dorsey said, as well as salaries and other services, all funding for ACCESS comes from the university. 

“Considering that ACCESS operates very much underneath a banner of accessibility versus compliance, a lot of the things that we would like to do, a lot of the things that we try and provide for students isn’t mandated by law. We know that if we do this, it will make life easier. It will level the playing field for students,” Dorsey said.

Jim Boyle, assistant director for inclusive compliance, said that if ACCESS had more funds available to them, it would allow for campus to be more accessible to all students. 

“Our whole goal is to make campus as accessible and as friendly as possible. We believe in the concept of universal design where you wouldn’t need accommodations because the campus would already be accessible to everybody,” Boyle said. 

Dorsey said one of the main things ACCESS is interested in is purchasing emergency evacuation chairs for students with physical disabilities who struggle to make it out safely by themselves. 

“The evacuation chairs will allow students, instead of having to wait in an area for rescue in the event of a fire or any type of emergency where we’d be evacuating the building, to use those chairs to safely get them down the stairs as opposed to waiting for emergency technicians to come in and rescue them or evacuate them,” Dorsey said. 

Dorsey said that these chairs cost around $1,500. He said that more funding would allow ACCESS to purchase more of these chairs so that one day, there can be an emergency evacuation chair on each floor of every building. 

“We wouldn’t in any other situation ask for people to be left behind when there is a mechanism or a way for everyone to evacuate safely. We think about how much it costs to save a life. I think $1,500 is a pretty cheap ask,” Dorsey said. 

Dorsey said ACCESS is also trying to get more funding for a note-taking software called Glean. He said this program is to allow students with disabilities the opportunity to take their own notes. 

“Glean allows students to record the lecture, see it visually, color code certain sections, stop recording when the lecturer stops speaking, but then you can go in and add your own notes. It drastically improved the knowledge, the retention, not just in terms of the information that’s received in the classroom, but overall in the institution for wide varieties of colleges and universities who adopted it,” Dorsey said. 

Boyle said Glean helps students to be independent and learn note-taking skills. 

“It helps them catch anything they’ve missed. The version we’re trying to get will provide a transcript, which will help with universal design. Ideally, this is something that would be available to everybody, but it’s too expensive,” Boyle said. 

Dorsey said that by using universal design, SIUE has the potential to be much more welcoming.

“I truly believe if we prioritize accessibility, not just compliance but if we really look at universal design, we can truly make SIUE one of the most, not just accessible, but welcoming campuses in the region, if not the country,” Dorsey said. 

Boyle said any students who notice issues with accessibility on campus can report them using the DART tool online. 

For more information, visit ACCESS’ website.

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