Fall 2010 AmeriGlide Achiever Recipient

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Kristen Jackson, Spring 2009 Scholarship Recipient

About the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship

Every year, the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship is awarded to two students who use wheelchairs and attend college full time. One of the requirements for receiving the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship is to provide a response to our essay question.

This semester's scholarship recipient is Nura Aly of DePaul University; her response to the essay question is printed below.

 

Fall 2010 Essay Question:

What area of your school do you think would benefit from improved accessibility and how would you improve it? What area of your school do you feel has excellent accessibility and why?

 

Response

I will be graduating in March from DePaul University, where I am studying violin. When I decided which college to attend, I did not choose based on accessibility; I went to DePaul because I liked the violin teacher there. I knew after seeing the campus that things needed to be changed in terms of accessibility, but I was willing to talk to the administration and get things resolved. Given that I was the first person in a wheelchair to attend the music school, I expected there would be some adjustments that would need to be made. The school has been really remarkable in some ways, responding quickly to issues as they have arisen.

 

Before I began my first term, the administration was aware they would need to install a lift up to the concert hall, and they did. When I discovered during the course of my first term that the ramp into the main building was too steep for me in my manual chair, they repaved it at a lessened slope in one weekend. The university has also clearly worked to make many of the main buildings accessible; the university has many elevators and ramps into the main buildings and seems to work with students with disabilities fairly well. The staff and faculty are accommodating. The facilities management workers are really great about snow shoveling in the winter and keeping the elevators and things running. So the university has done many things right, but they have a long way to go.

 

One of the major roadblocks to accessibility is based in the fact that the campus is located in a very residential area and one of the oldest neighborhoods in Chicago. Many of the faculty offices are in refurbished houses, which means they are not accessible. In order to meet with an instructor, I have to be able to call ahead and get someone able-bodied to help me or make appointments at different locations. Another major difficulty is in the music and theater buildings. While the entrance to the theater building is accessible, the front hall ends in a staircase with no ramp or elevator. And while they added a lift for the concert hall stage, the backstage area (where they hold a class I had hoped to take), is underneath the stage. The administration told me that no accommodation was possible, as there was no space for a ramp and the class could not be moved.

 

All of these things interfere with my taking full advantage of the educational opportunities available at DePaul. Fortunately there is a perfect opportunity to improve accessibility across all three of those areas: the faculty offices, the music department, and the theater department. I know for a fact that the music school and the theater school are getting new buildings built in the near future. This makes it the ideal moment to really think about the accessibility of the structures and fix the mistakes they have at the existing buildings. While they are building those, they should also make a new building (or space in one of the planned buildings) for department offices and move all the inaccessible offices into a new accessible building.

 

As the first student in a wheelchair, I have had to literally forge a trail; perhaps my participation will help building planners be more aware and careful in including accessibility planning. My hope is that maybe I or other students with disabilities can make suggestions to the committee planning these new buildings so that other students with disabilities in the future may consider and decide to come there. It is a great school with a great warm atmosphere. My hope is that anyone, no matter what his or her physical ability, will have a chance to enjoy what DePaul University has to offer; with the better accessibility, DePaul University will also benefit from attracting a diverse range of students, which contributes to everyone’s learning.

 

About Nura Aly:

Nura Aly is a student of DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she is studying music. Her award-winning essay describes how the faculty at DePaul University rose to the occasion of accommodating the first student at their school to use a wheelchair. Nura also points out a few excellent opportunities for progress with better accessibility. AmeriGlide is proud to award her the fall 2010 “AmeriGlide Achiever” scholarship award.

 

About the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship:

The AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship for students who use a wheelchair in their day-to-day lives. AmeriGlide is proud to count Nury Aly among our previous winners!

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