Students push for change of Disability Services’ location

UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness is petitioning the university to relocate the Student Disability Services office by 2020 to make it more accessible.


Sid Peterson

UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness spoke at the first annual Students with Disabilities Panel in the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Each panelist had a personal story to share about life at Iowa with their disability.

Charles Peckman, News Reporter

Some University of Iowa students with disabilities are calling for the university to improve the accommodations to meet their needs.

For 30 years, UI Student Disability Services has been located in Burge. Because of accessibility concerns and with Disability Awareness Month occurring, UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness launched a petition Wednesday morning urging the university administration to relocate Disability Services by 2020.

Among other items, the petition outlines the sense of insecurity felt by disabled students on campus, and says, “Not only can it be uncomfortable to enter a residence hall you don’t live in just to receive your services, but the fact that the office is not located in a student-services building is very ‘othering’ for students who often already feel marginalized in so many aspects of their life.”

In response to the petition’s release, Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers stressed the importance of accessibility at the UI in a statement to The Daily Iowan.

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“The University of Iowa recognizes the importance of accessible spaces for all students,” Shivers said in her statement. “During my tenure, several students have raised concerns about the current location of Student Disability Services.”

Over the past few months, Shivers said, she and Director of Campus Planning Joe Bilotta have convened a group of Student Life staff, including representatives from Student Disability Services, as well as members of UI Student Government and the Graduate and Professional Student Government, to begin conversations about the potential co-location of Student Disability Services, University Counseling Service, and Student Health & Wellness.

“These are very early conversations, and we look forward to continuing to explore more ways to fulfill our core mission of helping students be as successful as possible,” Shivers said.

For some students, accessibility on campus has been a multi-year project.

“We have been trying to go through channels like UISG administrations for a few years now,” UI sophomore Kaydee Ecker said. “God forbid we leave the university without doing anything — I have so many friends and so many people on campus who back us on this.”

Ecker, one of the students involved with the petition, said that since Section 504 passed in 1975, Student Disability Services has existed on campus in one form or another. At one point, the service was housed on the third floor of Calvin Hall. It also has been located in Burge for the last 30 years and in the basement of the residence hall for the last 10.

UI graduate student Andrea Courtney, who is involved with UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness, said she hopes the petition garners 1,000 signatures from undergraduate and graduate students.

Courtney said organizations such as UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness have been working with UISG and hope to present a joint resolution with an action plan to UI administrators.

“I started here in 2012, and every single year, I would think to myself, ‘Maybe [Disability Services] is being moved,’ and every year came and went, and it never happened,” she said. “One time … I was visiting the Burge office, and as I was leaving, I looked down and said to myself how ridiculous the situation is and how it needs to be changed.”