Accessibility for everyone

Tianjun Shen

It is answering the question of how accessible Kent State is that triggers me to write this article. My first encounter with this problem was a student (or a professor) bringing up the question of university accessibility services in foreign countries during the question session of an open lecture on trends and reforms of educational systems in Libya, China and Turkey.

Presenters from these three countries answered that they had similar services in their home countries, but not as well as in the Unites States. What I know is offered in China is students with reading or listening challenges have special schools to go to, but in most colleges and universities, we see very few students with disabilities (I have seen none at my home campus).

The issue here is students with disabilities in countries like China are very much separated from those without when attending school. The special schools have good facilities for them, but when I give it a second thought, I think it might not be a good thing for their personal development. If they want to study in the same environment as their peers, that opportunity may not be available because the universities are lacking accessibility services.

Our class discussed sexual identity theories as part of college student development on Wednesday. The professor brought up the question of what facilities do we need to accommodate transgender students and a classmate of mine told us there were five accessible restrooms and change rooms on our campus to accommodate transgender students.

What a surprise — I didn’t even know it. I wasn’t quick enough to write down all the five accessible restrooms my classmates found, but to give you an idea, there is one on the third floor of the Student Center and one in Prentice Hall.

I checked out the one in the Student Center after class. It has four signs right beside the entrance: a man, a woman, a person in a wheelchair and a man and a woman on the same sign. I think it’s great Kent State is bold enough to build restrooms and change rooms for perhaps one, ten, or a hundred students who do feel a need to have one.

Whenever I see students, faculty or staff with disabilities learning, teaching, working on campus or even just fitting in, I can’t help but feel happy for them. Citizens in my homeland are not enjoying such great accessibility services designed to make their lives easier.

I see students sitting in wheelchairs using computers specially designed for them in the library. Every building I have dropped by on campus has accessible doors. Students with walking difficulties can call an accessible PARTA bus to travel around campus or go shopping. And if they don’t like that service, they can get a regular PARTA bus and use the accessibility feature on each bus.

I had no chance to know any disabled students in my undergraduate institution in Shanghai, but I see here at Kent State they are part of us and they bring greater diversity to campus. They give us a chance to understand the differences in people and their understanding of the world.

Tianjun Shen is a higher education and student personnel major and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].