Center Director Speaks at Dedication of Accessible Entry to
KU's Administration Building
May 2015 - A landmark on the University of Kansas campus is now more accessible to people with disabilities. University leaders celebrated the creation of an accessible entrance into the front of Strong Hall with a ribbon-cutting on May 7. Glen White, director of the RTC/IL, made these comments at the ceremony:
This year we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was fortunate to be at the White House signing Ceremony along with thousands of other advocates on that hot July day. I remember having my picture taken with then Senate Majority Leader Senator Robert Dole. July 26, 1990 started the long road to independence and choice for millions of Americans with disabilities.
However, before the ADA was signed into Law, choices were limited for people with disabilities in employment, transportation, and even education. I remember transferring from one Minnesota post-secondary institution, where I majored in Business Administration to another university in 1970—only to discover that the Business Administration Department was located on the 3rd floor of Somsen Hall. This was the main administration building, much like Strong Hall. Unfortunately it did not have an elevator. What to do? My major course of study was in a building where I could not get to my classes. So I did the most logical thing I could at the time, I changed my major to Experimental Psychology!! Why? Because it was housed in Guildemeister Hall, a building that was accessible for me! (my choices were severely limited). Who here today would wish to change their major based on a building they could get into?
Fast forward to 1986. I was a graduate student here at KU in what was known as Human Development and Family Life – now called the Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, of which I serve as a professor.
Back then, students regularly trekked to Strong Hall to enroll in classes. After you selected your courses for the next semester in Strong Hall, you then went to KU Student Union to pay for your classes. This was a long arduous process, finding an accessible parking place if one could be had, then entering the back of Strong Hall and praying that the elevator was working so you could go to the first floor to enroll. If the elevator was not working, and you often did not receive any advance notice, this left you frustrated because you had no other way to get to the first floor. Of course, with the current online enrollment, those particular problems are now avoided.
Remaining however, was the stigma of only being able to go through the back door of KU’s Main Administration building, whether a student, faculty member or endowment donor with a disability. But today, that has changed. We are here to celebrate the opening of a new ADA Compliant ramp to the front of Strong Hall, a new chapter in the continued embracement of diversity. A day where everyone regardless of ability, can go into the front door of one of our most respected buildings on campus.
This would not have been possible without the encouragement and dedication of the AbleHawks, the Office of Accessibility and ADA Education (Jamie Simpson) the KU Architectural Barriers Committee, the KU Office of Design and Construction (Jim Modig), Human Resources Management, The Provost and Chancellor’s Offices, KU Student Senate and other supporting KU partners, (The Beach Center, The Research and Training Center on Independent Living, The Department of American Studies and the Department of Special Education, Great Plains ADA Center, Independence, Inc., among others).
Yes we have made progress. Symbolic success. We have created a ramp that will serve as a testimony of our commitment to integration of students with mobility limitations. We still have much to so. Essentially building a ramp is fairly easy to do. Addressing attitudes and subtle discriminations against people with visible and hidden disabilities is more challenging. Let us think of this ramp as a launching pad (I’m thinking Evil Knievel here) to make KU a shining example of full inclusion of people with disabilities.