ORU Works to Better Assist Disabled Students

This story was written by Ian Harrup via the ORU Oracle.


Photo Taken by Austin St. John

David Jones is a freshman with severely limited vision.

Imagine suffering from a broken leg. Think of the recovery. Now, think of the challenges that would surface if this recovery took place at ORU. Those who have ever suffered an injury while at school that rendered them immobile may remember how helpful — or difficult — the layout and appliances of the university were.

During the general remodeling of the ORU campus over the last few years, many steps have been taken to improve the accessibility of the buildings and walkways for those who are temporarily or permanently handicapped.

Thomas Bellatti, the director of Student Resources, spoke of some of these changes around campus.

“We’ve made a lot of changes to accommodate handicapped people. The ramps around the GC weren’t there four years ago, and neither were the lifts to the Student Accounts office or the Registrar. Door openers were also added, and we are continuing to improve the Braille signage around campus for the blind.”

When the university was built in the 1960s, there were no building codes specifically for handicaps.

While the buildings were designed to be aesthetically pleasing, the ergonomics have only begun to be considered within the last few years.

The Armand Hammer Alumni-Student Center’s construction is fully compliant with modern building codes, but the task of bringing the older buildings up to date is ongoing. Currently, $5 million is being invested in improving the accessibility around campus.

Sometimes, however, students do encounter difficulty with the systems.

Kathryn Brand, a senior who recently had her right hand placed in a splint for a broken pinky, said even she has noticed these difficulties.

“Sometimes the automatic doors are locked. That makes it difficult when my good hand is full of stuff, and I can’t grab the handle,” she said.

However, accessibility improvements go beyond just walkways and elevators. Students who are blind or deaf need accommodations simply to participate in class, complete assignments or take tests.

David Jones, a freshman with severely limited vision, said it took him some time to figure out a system that worked best for him based on the facilities and accommodations at ORU.

“At first it was really difficult getting books in a format I could use, but now we’ve got it all figured out,” he said.

Jones said he was specifically thankful for the Survey of Old Testament test being on D2L.

“It’s all on the computer, and I can use it without waiting for a special form or something. It’s perfect.”

Of all the improvements that need to be made for students like Jones, Bellatti said he also has considered the academic side of things.

“If we have blind students and there’s a video in class, will the video have precise narration so the student can understand? If we have a deaf student, will the video have closed captioning? Besides just the construction aspects, we need to be completely accessible in all fields,” he said.

While the building improvements are focused on compliance at this point, the university is continuing to find more effective ways to assist anyone who is handicapped.