UI students with disabilities advocate for an accessible campus, main library

The UI Students for Disability Advocacy and Awareness work to make the university a disability friendly campus


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The Hardin Library for Health Services building is seen on Oct. 24, 2022.

Grace Katzer, News Reporter

University of Iowa students are requesting the Main Library and Hardin Library for Health Sciences provide accommodations for people with disabilities during renovations.

While the renovations are in the early stages, the university asked students in UI Students for Disability Advocacy and Awareness to weigh in on how renovations can improve accessibility.

Abbie Steuhm, UI Students for Disability Advocacy and Awareness president, said the campus has made improvements over the last few years, but more still needs to be done to accommodate student needs.

Steuhm named the Main Library as a key focus for their disability accessibility advocacy.

“Just recently, our organization got an invitation to do an evaluation of the main library because the first couple floors are going to be renovated,” they said. “The Library IDEAS council is working to fix the more inaccessible aspects of the library in these renovations.”

Steuhm, an employee at the library, said the advocacy group’s members did a walkthrough to point out high priority areas to fix for students with disabilities.

“The main entrances to the library are just single-user doorways, and they are very narrow, so it’s difficult to navigate,” they said. “If you’re in a wheelchair, or even if you have some sort of other mobility aid like crutches, it can be very difficult.”

Other issues in the main library include broken automatic sensors at door entrances and inconsistent lighting that makes it too dark or too bright for people with disabilities and sensory issues to see, Steuhm said.

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Brad Ferrier, a member of the IDEAS committee, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that he works closely with Steuhm and other students to make the libraries as accessible as possible.

The IDEAS council, which supports principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and social justice, started about a year ago, Ferrier wrote.

“The renovations to the library are in the early stages,” he wrote. “This project to assess the accessibility of the physical spaces includes the Main Library and Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.”

Construction in the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences started this month as well, and the work is transforming the space to be welcoming and relevant for students’ needs, according to the official announcement.

“That evaluation has been done, and the report has been forwarded to us at the IDEAS Council,” he wrote. “We are scheduled to discuss it at one of our upcoming meetings.”

No one can see all the potential complications in the building, which is why the council sought additional evaluation from students, Ferrier wrote.

“It is very important to have a group like UISDAA share their ideas about accessibility and usability,” he wrote.

William Guiler, UISDAA secretary and treasurer, said the walkthrough of the library was an important step forward for the group.

“The [library renovations] have been a huge thing that we’ve been working on,” he said. “We want to make sure that those renovations are going to be helpful to students with disabilities.”

Guiler said UISDAA is continuing to work on building a community for students with disabilities.

“These issues are why we have to turn to advocacy to help our community,” he said.

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