Accessibility

Sophomore Kati McFarland, pictured Sept. 3, has spotlighted several inaccessible areas around campus on her Twitter account over the past week in hopes that the university will make a change.

After the first week of courses Aug. 28, Kati went to Razorbash, an event where students could learn about student-led organizations, but could not access the organizations because many of the tables were on the grass.

Sophomore Kati McFarland, who prefers to be identified by a gender-neutral pronoun, thinks the UofA is not accessible enough for people with disabilities, they said. In a thread on Twitter, they voiced their concerns about campus accessibility issues such as reaching objects in the David W. Mullins Library and the Arkansas Union.

Students must provide official documentation of their disability to register with the Center for Educational Access, according to the CEA Student Handbook.

To register for academic accommodations to meet their respective needs, students must fill out a request for services form, schedule an Access Plan Meeting, attend an Access Plan Meeting, provide documentation of disability of medical condition, wait for CEA’s approval of registration and apply for academic accommodations.

The CEA offers accommodations such as extended test time, note transcription services, ASL interpreters, temporary supplemental transportation assistance, assistive technology and conversions to braille, specialized electronic format and large print, according to the Center for Educational Access. 

Although students may have similar disabilities, each request for reasonable accommodation is considered on a case-by-case basis, Laura James, the director of the Center for Educational Access said in an email.

McFarland registered Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome with the Center for Education Access. 

EDS is a group of disorders that affect connective tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels and many other organs and tissues, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

This is McFarland’s first semester back on campus since they dropped out in Fall 2016 to seek medical treatment and take the steps necessary to receive documentation, they said.

Alex Vásquez, a former exchange student from San José, Costa Rica who attended the UofA in 2017, registered Osteogenesis Imperfecta and diabetes with the CEA, he said.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a group of disorders that affect bone formation, according to the US National Library of Medicine.

CEA officials communicated with Vásquez via Skype before he arrived in the U.S. to take courses at the UofA, and they scheduled a meeting with him after his flight landed in Northwest Arkansas, he said.

After the two meetings, Vásquez did not speak with the CEA again directly, he said.

“Most of the accessibility needs and requirements I needed were dealt with my advisor in the International Students Office,” Vasquez said. “When it comes to the material requests, (the CEA) did do a great job trying to get me the books in a digital version.”

Vásquez thinks the UofA is more accessible to students with disabilities than his university in Costa Rica, with the UofA having better infrastructure, such as sidewalks and elevators, he said.

While Vásquez is optimistic about campus accessibility, McFarland thinks campus could be more progressive with accommodations, they said.

McFarland thinks there are some subtle issues that people with physical disabilities on campus face, such as out-of-reach objects, they said.

The card machines at some stores on campus do not move or tilt in an accessible manner, McFarland said.

When McFarland was in the library, they did not notice any accessible tables or print stations around the library, they said.

In the process of trying to navigate campus, McFarland thinks they should not have to take time out of their day to file a complaint about accessibility, they said.

In its opening weeks, Adohi Hall, the newest residence hall on campus, has raised concerns because of inadequate accessibility features.

Housing officials posted temporary signs throughout the residence hall that did not contain raised braille before residents moved in Aug. 12. 

The signs will be fixed by the end of September, said Residential Facilities Director, Jeffrey Vinger. 

Students with disabilities on campus have a right to an education through reasonable accommodations and the right to file a complaint if they have been discriminated against or denied access to accommodations required by law, according to the CEA.

Zachery Sutherland is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where he has been a staff reporter since February 2019.

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