Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Illinois program offers disabled students a unique living environment : Oct 20, 2011

We all strive to remain independent as best we can. For persons with disabilities this can be one of the major challenges they face daily. Yet, as five students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign demonstrate, it can be done. The students have begun a collaborative blog, entitled The Fine Scholars, in which they (sometimes rather colorfully) share what it means to be a college student with special needs. You can visit the blog directly at http://www.thefinescholars.com/

The dialogue (although indescribably unique) was not what captured my attention. Instead, the back story of how these people came to know one another provided inspiration. The students are part of a unique residential program sponsored by the university. Known as Beckwith Residential Support Services, (BRSS), this initiative allows various offices on campus to support their students with disabilities. Created in 1981, as a stand-alone service, the primary goal has remained the same. Yet, the infrastructure has evolved tremendously. During 2010, Nugent Hall, a state of the art residence opened with items such as: keyless entry, fully-accessible technology suites, functional bathroom facilities, workout equipment and much more!

The initiative goes above and beyond physical access issues though. Also provided at Beckwith are academic, transportation, counseling, and personal assistance services (PAS). The PAS are provided on a scheduled basis by other university students specially trained by BRSS staff. In addition, there is a 24/7 staff member living in the residence hall should any student need services when their regular personal assistant is unavailable. Detailed information regarding the entire Beckwith Program can be found at http://www.disability.illinois.edu/living-accommodations/beckwith-residential-support-services-nugent-hall

For me, programs like this one are a major need. What are your thoughts? Would this work in other universities? Why or why not?

As always, thanks for reading!

On Twitter.com @dmorriso87

#Source: Wilmington Star News by David Morrison; Oct 10, 2011