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Monday, October 30, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 50 

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SGA forms Disability Accessibility Task Force

Group will examine accessibility problems on campus

By Chad W. Allen
News Reporter

The Student Government Association recently organized six task forces geared toward providing students with the best possible environment at the University, including a group that will look into accessibility issues on campus.

The Disability Accessibility Task Force's main concern is making UH one of the most accommodating universities in the nation for disabled students. It, and the other task forces, were organized by SGA President James Robertson Jr.

"I thought about how hard it would be for me to have to go around in a wheelchair on campus," Robertson said.

Robertson also said spending time with disabled students during Camp Cougar in 1998 helped him to understand the importance of making UH more accessible to those individuals.

Camp Cougar was a two-week mentor and activities program that used to take place at UH during the summer. It has since been moved off campus.

"I felt bad about sidewalks being uneven ... and streetlights that were not timed right," Robertson said. "It's definitely a student issue."

Last week, the DATF met to write a mission statement and recruit more members.

"As someone who is not disabled, it's often easy to overlook the things that make going to class a not-so-simple task," said Alysia Minor, the DATF team leader.

Minor, a sophomore pre-business student, said she is excited about the DATF's possible achievements and what it can do for the disabled students at UH. Five active members are working with her to investigate accessibility issues.

Robertson said he was able to obtain a September 1999 report on accessibility prepared by engineering students that said 48.5 percent of the 75 buildings examined on the UH campus were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The University had a plan in 1991 to make the campus more accessible, but not all the planned changes have been made. The 1999 report estimated the cost of those improvements at $294,411.

The suggested improvements include new, more accessible water fountains, widening doors and adjusting elevators to allow students in wheelchairs more room to maneuver.

To begin its work, the DATF has set some short-term goals, including preparing informational pamphlets on Attendant Care Services at Cougar Place, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service for wheelchair-bound individuals who live in the campus housing complex.

Attendants help the students get from place to place and up and down stairs, among other services.

The task force also plans to map out accessible building entrances and rest rooms on campus. In the meantime, it has set up an e-mail address (UHaccessibility@hotmail.com) for students to voice their concerns on accessibility issues.

"The task force is about making a difference," Minor said. "We are more concerned with people than politics. That's why we get things done."

The group meets weekly and is always seeking more students for members, Minor said. Anyone interested in joining the task force may contact Minor at supastarr99@yahoo.com.

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