Over the summer, Judy Ferres, associate director of the Office for Institutional Diversity (OID), helped create a website that provides students with disabilities one central location where they can access information about how to get around on campus. Students with disabilities typically face a unique set of challenges when navigating campus, including entering the dining halls, retrieving the necessary course materials, and requesting accommodations, Ferres noted.
“Hopefully increased awareness will help people understand that we all have a right to work and to be educated and that we all come with our different abilities,” she said.
Prior to Boston College displaying information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on its website, the OID had a section on its own website for accessibility. It took approximately three months to create the accessibility website, but with the assistance of the Disability Services Coordinating Committee and the Information Technology Services (ITS) group, the University was able to produce a site that houses, organizes, and makes available resources for students with disabilities. The University’s site had already contained links to all of the information now displayed on its website, but that information was not centralized or publicly available in detail on an online platform, making it less likely for students with disabilities to find the necessary literature on ADA accessibility across campus, Ferres said.
“We’re hoping that this will help them to have one spot to go to and figure out what they need in order to become the best student they can be here at BC,” she said.
The committee that worked on the ADA accessibility website said it is open to suggestions and feedback on what it can do to make the website better. Many departments at BC are providing the committee with input on how the University can become a more inclusive environment. This collaboration of ideas from different departments, Ferres said, will ultimately enhance the functionality and resourcefulness of the website.
Throughout the past few months, several accessibility updates have been installed throughout parking garages, as well as additional handicap signs around campus in order to accommodate those with disabilities, according to Ferres.
“The new image is to have a moving wheelchair so people don’t subconsciously think that a person with a disability in a wheelchair can’t do anything,” Ferres said, noting that the mobility symbol has a greater likelihood of communicating that individuals with disabilities are capable of more than was previously conveyed.
Facilities Services has been working for the past six months to ensure that the Bapst Library door is always accessible to individuals with disabilities, addressing the issue that, although an accessible door had existed, it was often locked due to lack of use.
Ferres, along with those with whom she works, said she cares about inclusion and places a strong emphasis on ensuring all are provided adequate accessibility on campus, regardless of race, ethnicity, or disability for both students and faculty.
“It’s always been an interest of mine to make sure that we don’t have barriers to employment or to promotions for faculty and staff,” Ferres said.
“I think it’s great that we have accessibility on our ‘About’ page because it allows people to see that Boston College believes in working with people with disabilities no matter what contingency they’re coming from,” she said.
Featured Image by Daniel Lee / Heights Senior Staff