The tour was quite memorable, it was fascinating to see the innovations and measures that DRES has taken to make the lives of the disabled students on campus easier. A few of the interesting features in the facilities that stood out to me were, when the speaker mentioned the availability of Personal Assistants and disabled friendly services for smoother commute for the students. That seemed like a very convenient service to have. Another one was the Elevators were specially designed to be made disabled friendly and were a little larger and different than the regular elevators. All the spaces in the building were constructed keeping wheelchairs in mind, with very few stairs, and all the spaces having elevator connections or slopes so that wheelchairs could easily be transported. Another thing that stood out for me was how they had several spare wheelchairs in a room, which felt like a great service to have.
Out of all the collaborations with Microsoft, and other organizations, the one collaboration that stood out for me was the one with the Olympics. It was interesting and prideworthy to be told that most of the members in the Paralympics team came from UIUC, and it was fascinating to understand DRES had a huge role to play in it. The partnership of DRES with the USA Special Olympics Team is a very noble venture that provides disabled people a great platform for representation in the world of sports, it also brings DRES a lot of international exposure.
I have attached pictures I found of DRES. I did not realize we had to screenshot during the zoom meeting.
Shows facilities in Beckwith hall, and the Personal Assistant Services from DRES.
Shows the sports wheelchairs that are used by the students while playing the various sports.
Quotes that got the Spotlight:
- “We have extensive collaborations and partnerships with the United States Special Olympics Team, a lot of the members of the team are from University of Illinois.”
- “We have DRES alum working at companies like Microsoft, DRES helped me in achieving this goal.”
- “This innovation garage, has a lot of interesting stuff to foster innovation”
There are a few issues that DRES still needs to address, and seem to be the major barriers for the organization:
- Funding – the organization requires more funding to achieve its goals at scale.
- Stigma – DRES still must fight some stigma that revolves around disabled people and what they are capable of. This issue can be fought only by further educating the people about the achievements.
There were quite a few strategies that were employed to increase diversity and inclusion within the university. A few good examples would be organisations demanding the increased employment of black people. “In the wake of Project 500’s tumultuous launch, the BSA demanded that the university hire more black professors, establish a black cultural center, and organize an African American studies program.” (220) This helped in increasing diversity and a more inclusive culture within the university.
Other strategies that were put into place included – This included an organization taking a stance for the Latino student population at the university, “La Casa sought to expand the definition of “minority” to include bilingual students who descended from Latino families who were either citizens in the United States or immigrants from Latin America. Like the BSA, Colectiva brought attention to the severe under representation of Latino students and faculty on campus and demanded that the university develop a recruitment initiative to remedy the situation.” This shed light into the demands and talked about how latinos also deserved an equal representation at the University. (221) Following on the footsteps of BSA and La Casa, “While seeking the establishment of a cultural center, Asian American student activists also called for the establishment of an academic program. Courses in Asian American studies appeared in the early 1990s, but it was not until 1997 that the Asian American Studies Committee was organized” (222) This brought to the attention of the University authorities for the need of Asian coursework, and representation in the University. All of these examples were fighting for the same cause, an equal and fair representation and opportunities in the University.
These organisations, made great progress and impact. For La Casa, after several rounds of protests – The board of trustees soon approved the establishment of a Latino Studies Program, with Rafael Nunez-Cedeno, a professor of Spanish originally from the Dominican Republic, serving as the acting director. Over the next two decades, the program expanded its course offerings, developed an undergraduate minor in 1997. Similarly, BSA achieved great success as well.
Overall, although great progress has been made over the years, the fight for equal representation is not over yet, there needs to be further research to find out the groups that are still left out and to give them representation in the University. More strategies need to be employed to bring forward a more inclusive and discrimination free environment.