NIU attempts to insure handicap accessibility

By Michael Berg

A recent memo from the President’s office to college deans and department chairs will attempt to boost awareness about making NIU more handicapped accessible.

A memo was sent at the beginning of the month from NIU President John La Tourette to NIU deans, chairs and directors asking for their “support and cooperation in insuring that the university’s curricular and co-curricular activities and programs are accessible to persons with disabilities.”

The purpose of the memo was a reminder to departments to “keep in mind that activities should be held in a location that could be accessed by people with disabilities,” said Gary Gresholdt, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

The letter was part of NIU’s following the Disabilities Act of 1990, a federal law which intends to insure access for handicapped persons.

There have been numerous efforts to renovate,” Gresholdt said. “However, many buildings built prior to accessibility legislation (the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), for various reasons, can’t be made accessible.”

Linn Sorge, coordinator for Services for Students with Disabilities, said some areas have been addressed at NIU. However, she said, others were not in compliance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

For example, she said there are no new computers for the visually impaired, which blocks access to disabled students to some English classes.

Class arrangements for students with disabilities are made after students sign up, Gresholdt said. If a person with a disability signs up for a class section in an inaccessible location, the section will move to a place that is accessible.

“Professors are trying hard and are very cooperative,” Sorge said. “Often they will call and find extra ways to be helpful to meet the accommodations (people with disabilities) would need.”

“Events and activities on the whole are trying,” Sorge said. For example, at a concert Sorge said she often calls to get a visually impaired individual a seat closer to the front.

Fraternity and sorority houses are not very accessible to scooters and chairs, Sorge said. Although there are some exceptions, “Most Greek houses aren’t accessible (and) are not welcoming at all to individuals with disabilities.”