New student group helps those with disabilities ‘adapt’ to KSU

Katie Greenwald

A man donning a cowboy hat and sunglasses walks through the Student Center using his red tipped cane to lead the way. He walks over to the doorway facing Risman Plaza by the fountain and feels for the Daily Kent Stater newsstand.

With a silver on silver ‘ping,’ his cane stops moving, and he realizes someone moved the stand too close to the button for disabled people to open the door.

Day after day, he takes the initiative to move it at least four feet from the door, so people in wheelchairs can push the button.

This is just one example of why there is need for an Association for Disability Awareness among Professors and Teachers at Kent State, said Clarence Ayers, an advocate for students with disabilities and founder of ADAPT.

“There are more (reasons) than one can shake a stick at,” he said.

ADAPT is a support network for students with disabilities, and its members work to eliminate barriers faced by students with disabilities.

Barriers include wheelchair ramps without bumpers, bathroom signs without Braille and Web sites that are not formatted to be accessible by blind students. These are all items that do not comply with American Disability Act standards, Ayers said.

He blames the problems on budget constraints.

Ann Penn, director of equal opportunity, said she is unaware of anything that does not comply with ADA regulations.

“I don’t even know what these things are,” she said. “If they are brought to our attention, we will address those things.”

She said some long-term renovations are in the works, and the ADA allows establishments time to complete them.

Ayers said Kent State is well known for having superb Students with Disabilities Services, and ADAPT wants to make sure it remains a university of choice among students with disabilities by fixing problems.

He said along with the technical and physical barriers, there are human barriers too.

“A lot of professors are willing to help,” he said. “It’s the limited few who are resistant that are the problem. We need to get these people to change their attitudes.”

He wants to implement a three-strikes-and-you’re-out program for professors who are accused of not being sensitive to students with disabilities.

He said some problems students with disabilities face are when professors write on the board and don’t explain what they are writing, don’t allow students in wheelchairs to sit in the front of the class and don’t e-mail materials to blind students which would allow them to access it through their reading software.

ADAPT meets bi-weekly, and members are expected to be advocates for students with disabilities, fundraisers and awareness promoters.

“We are trying to put humans back into humanity,” Ayers said.

Students can join ADAPT by sending an e-mail to Ayers at [email protected] and writing ‘adapt’ in the subject area.

There is a $10 membership fee.

Contact financial reporter Katie Greenwald at [email protected].