Disability Culture at Illinois
I wanted to take the time to address the topic of disability at Illinois. Despite being one of the largest minority groups, students with disabilities are often overlooked and left out of important conversations about inclusion, diversity, and improvement. The Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES) at Illinois is the primary resource for students with disabilities to get the accommodations they need.
Are you a student with a disability? Here are some things you may not have known about Illinois:
- Illinois is the oldest post-secondary disability support program in the world.
- We have the first wheelchair-accessible fixed route bus system and the first accessible university residence halls.
- We’re home to the first university service fraternity and advocacy group comprised of students with disabilities.
- Illinois has the first collegiate adapted sports and recreation program for students with disabilities, which also produced the first wheelchair athlete in the world to win an Olympic Gold Medal
Often times, Illinois is seen as the first choice for many disabled students, given its history of firsts and continuing innovation to provide first-class support.
A lot of this support comes from DRES, which will work with students to get them accommodations they need, such as management of professor relationships for classroom needs, textbook conversions, and other services.
Some of this support comes in the form of technology, such as the software available on university computer labs.
However, that isn’t to say there aren’t any problems for students with disabilities. Recently, I attended the Culture of Disability Expo where many students with disabilities expressed struggles they’v faced on campus:
- Disability being left out of other minority and inclusion conversations/events around campus
- Other students being unsure of how to approach disability and students with disabilities.
- Lack of unity amidst the diversity of disability among students with disabilities.
- Some faculty or administrative staff being unwilling to provide accommodations, such as changing the physical location of a class so that a student can hear or see better in order to learn.
One masters student in particular expressed that she was often told “no” first when asking for such accommodations. But as she said, it’s important to realize that you are paying for your education and these services are there for you.
If you have chosen Illinois, it’s important to manage your expectations when coming to campus as a student with a disability, since there are still obstacles to face. But it’s equally important to realize the resources you need are here; sometimes you just need to be the voice for yourself.
Here are two FAQs, one for students, and another for parents, if you might have more questions that others have had:
You can also check out the DRES Facebook page here for a look into the kinds of events and people involved in the program. And if you’re in need of a service dog or just want to look at pictures of cute dogs, check out the Illini Service Dogs Facebook here!
I hope this post provided you with helpful information. As always, please comment with any questions or thoughts you might have, and for more information, you can always contact DRES directly here.