Senators of the Student Association passed a resolution urging the university to move the Disability Resource Center to a more accessible place on campus due to its location on the fourth floor of the Health Services building. The resolution was passed during Sunday night’s meeting with all 27 senators who attended the meeting voting in favor.
The resource center currently resides at 385 Wirtz Drive and is only accessible by elevator or stairs. The center offers guidance, services and resources to help students succeed at the university, according to the Disability Resource Center NIU webpage.
Deputy Speaker of the Senate Cassandra Kamp and President Khiree Cross created the resolution because they said the Health Services Building is not an accessible place on campus due to its structure and the multitude of elevator issues, according to the April 28 SA agenda. Kamp reported that after getting information from the Disability Resource Center, she found the two elevators on the east and west side of the Health Services Building have broken down 21 times between 2018 and 2019 for several hours or days at a time.
Kamp said approximately 20% of students at NIU, which is over 1,000 students, use the center and also have a disability that interferes with their motor abilities. She said for these students, if the elevator isn’t working, they won’t be able to use the stairs.
“This is a big problem when [the Disability Resource Center] is on the fourth floor of a building where the stairs are very difficult to use,” Kamp said. “I get winded when I walk up those stairs, and I don’t identify as a student with a disability. That’s concerning, especially for the students [who] use the Disability Resource Center almost every single day.”
Kamp came up with the 20% of students who use the the center from the data she collected. The 20% comes from 5% of students with a physical disability, 8% of students with a systemic or chronic health disability, 4% of students with an acquired brain injury, 4% of students with a blind or visual impairment disability and 1% of students with a temporary or uncategorized disability.
Senator Alex Forgue asked Kamp what the ideal location for the resource center would be and how it would benefit students.
Kamp said when choosing a location for the resource center, one should consider multiple factors that could impact students such as proper installation of the walls. Kamp said having improper installation could lead to noise disruptions when students are taking tests.
“I personally think the Campus Life Building, specifically where the Student Association is, is one of the best options because it’s on the first floor where there are no stairs,” Kamp said. “This is a location that’s familiar with students, but again, there are factors that I’m not aware of, and we haven’t formally discussed.”
Speaker-elect Ian Pearson applauded Kamp on the resolution and asked why the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities hasn’t dealt with this issue yet. The group makes recommendations to President Freeman regarding the needs of people with disabilities, according to the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities website.
Kamp was appointed by Cross to become a sitting member of the SA at the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities meetings. She said she has brought up the issue multiple times during meetings.
“The answer I keep getting from the administration is that there are a lot of things to consider, and I haven’t gotten a definitive answer,” Kamp said. “ That is because right now, the university has a survey which has been created for all of the different facilities on campus who would like to move.”
Speaker of the Senate Tristan Martin said he attended one of the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities meetings and received the same answer as well. Martin said he would like to see the administration move forward with the issue now that the resolution has been passed.
“I believe that we as students can rally behind this and say to the administration that ‘hey, we want this demographic of students to be better represented. We want them to have an accessible space that they can rely upon when their needs aren’t being met,’” Martin said.
Senator James Holmes said one of the biggest selling points of NIU is that the university is accessible. He said after talking to students who may have a disability, he found they often struggle on campus.
“I’ve talked to students who have a visually impaired disability, and they have mentioned they have walked around campus not knowing where they are and the people who are supposed to be there to help them aren’t there,” Holmes said. “[This resolution] is one of the first steps to moving the university forward.”