College Choice, an online resource for helping families pick the right colleges, recently ranked UT fifth in a list of the Top 50 Best Disability Friendly Campuses and Universities.
UT’s Services for Students with Disabilities department is primarily responsible for ensuring disabled students have equal access to academics by providing accommodations for classrooms and exams. Emily Shryock, the assistant director of SSD, said each year the department has witnessed a steady growth in the demand for academic accommodations by students.
“In 2016-2017 SSD has 2,845 students using accommodations, but we had another 651 students contact our office about things such as course load reduction, housing accommodations or information for how to set up accommodations,” Shryock said in an email.
Shalom Hernandez, business and applied learning senior, said navigating around construction is difficult despite the efforts of SSD to improve life on campus for the disabled.
“Construction has definitely been a problem at times, Hernandez said. “There should be more careful revision over accessible access areas for students with disabilities, for instance, making sure not to block half of the ramp.”
Student Body President Alejandra Guzman echoed Hernandez’ sentiments and continued that UT’s older buildings can be difficult to navigate in her wheelchair.
“There have been times I have felt frustrated when an elevator stopped working, and I was stuck on the second floor for three hours, to entering a certain building where the handicap button wouldn't work for a week,”Guzman said.
In order to heighten awareness of UT’s disabled community and improve inclusion, Guzman will be focusing on physical mobility as a point of improvement and gathering student feedback on how to make accessibility better overall.
In her three years at UT, Hernandez said she has already seen an increase in accessibility, enough for UT’s rank as fifth best disability-friendly campus nationwide.
“From freshman year, 2014, to now, 2017, I've noticed places on campus where ramps have been made now that weren't there my freshman year, which makes me smile,” Hernandez said.