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Inclusion, not Exclusion

by Jeromie Ballreich
Juniata College

1800Wheelchair.com Scholarship Winning Essay for 2007/2008

Jeromie Ballreich

I recently completed a study on accessibility for Juniata College as part of my student employment and the essay question posed is similar to the purpose of the recommendations portion of the study. I provided specific recommendations within the context of the study about the importance of including students with disability in the educational environment. Inclusion is the best general advice for my college's faculty and administration, and for any college to be inclusive I suggest the following.

First, the administration and faculty need to free themselves from thinking that making a campus fully accessible is a financial burden.

Accessibility is, and should be seen as, an asset to a college for many reasons. Eliminating the physical barriers allows students with disabilities to become part of the student body and encourages diversity amongst the students. Increasing diversity not only allows students with disability a fair chance at a higher education but also allows other students to gain from the perspective of someone with disability.

Diversity is a priority that many colleges pursue so allowing students with disability access to the entire campus is just one way of pursuing diversity. An accessible campus allows the college to provide an educational environment to a wider array of students and, as I have learned in economics, it is always beneficial to increase one's market size.

Second, a college's administration and faculty need to approach accessibility and assisting students with disability in a holistic manner.

I suggest considering the full 24 hours in a day when a college looks to assist students with disability. Schools should focus not only on accessibility of the main academic buildings but also on other areas of student life. For example, a college should look to see if their gym equipment is accessible; does the school have transportation that accommodates a wheelchair for field trips; are there proper student employment options available for deaf students? These are just a few examples for a school to look at when using a holistic approach to assisting students with disabilities.

Students with disability provide new perspectives, different experiences, and diversity to a college campus. College's faculty and administration need to recognise these assets and provide an accessible campus, inclusive student life options, and proper support for students with disabilities.

1800Wheelchair.com annual scholarship award

Established in 2006 by 1800Wheelchair.com, the essay scholarship fund awards one $500 scholarship to an undergraduate student on June 30 each year. The scholarship is open to US students of any major or concentration.

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