SRU recognizes November as Disability Issues Month
Oct. 31, 2016
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - For the majority of students on a college campus, lecture halls, study groups and research papers comprise the bulk of regular day. But for those students dealing with a physical or mental disability, college life can be anything but traditional.
For nearly one out of every 10 college students, a day filled with many taken-for-granted routines - such as simply moving from one classroom to the next - can prove to be a challenge.
As of 2012, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that as many as 11.1 percent of college undergraduates were wrestling through a physical disability while simultaneously contending for a degree.
Slippery Rock University will recognize these additional hardships endured by members of its student population during its November President's Commission for Disability Issues Month.
"We really work to provide advocacy not only for the people on campus, but also for everyone all across the University community," said Matthew Erickson, commission co-chair and associate professor of special education. "Our goal is to promote a sense of awareness to all individuals so that they become more knowledgeable about some of the barriers that people experience at SRU."
David Krayesky, associate professor of biology, co-chairs the commission with Erickson.
One of the commission's events to raise awareness will be a Nov. 9 TracFab demonstration in the Quad at 10:30 a.m. TracFab, a Slippery Rock-based company, will be exhibiting and performing test runs of its all-terrain wheelchair.
This chair, built almost exclusively from American-made parts, offers adjustable seat suspension, van accessibility, easy transferability and a "culmination of comforts." TracFab touts that the chair is for those with an active "on-the-go" lifestyle, noting that it has served combat veterans, industrial workers and lovers of the great outdoors for the past four years.
"These wheelchairs will be important not just to our Slippery Rock community but to people with disabilities everywhere," said Erickson. "As technology continues to develop and improve, it is now just a matter of getting the results into the hands of the right people who will benefit. I believe that this technology will allow those with disabilities to go more places, do more things and live much more normal, fulfilling lives."
Erickson added that the free and all-inclusive TracFab demonstration will be an opportunity to see first-hand the future of all-terrain technology. "We certainly hope many people will come out to see it," he said. "This is important for staff, faculty and students alike."
While Erickson, Krayesky and the other commission members aim for November to be an eye-opening month for the entirety of the campus community, the campaign for disability issue awareness in a year-round effort with a variety of educational offerings and service outreach.
"In many of our special education and adapted physical education courses, we actually have undergraduates take on the role of a disabled student," said Erickson. "This gives those students the opportunity to simulate being in a wheelchair and having to travel through campus. The feedback of those challenges is always very valuable in creating awareness and advocacy."
Any barriers - including such issues as uneven or broken sidewalks - that are found during those simulations are addressed as quickly as possible by the University according to Scott Albert, assistant vice president of facilities and planning and a member of the commission. "A major focus of the University, and one that is always at the forefront of many of the things our department does, is accessibility for all," said Albert.
"The goal of our commission is to be as accessible and user-friendly as possible," said Erickson. "Our entire team is devoted to making every day work smoothly for disabled students, not just in November, but throughout the year. Our job is to listen to input and then improve wherever and whenever we can. We are always open to hearing what our students are saying and we welcome suggestions."
A disability sport night sponsored by the commission will occur in February or March. That event which will provide an opportunity for students to learn about a variety of disability sports, including wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball, wheelchair tennis, beep baseball and other activities.
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