Last updated on November 13, 2019
Paige: Hi, everyone! Welcome back to effortless week three podcast! This week were going to be doing a little bit of research and following up on some topics we talked about in week two, so bare with us. So, when we were in our interviews last week with one of our interviewees she had mentioned that when looking for schools and looking for colleges in the Philadelphia area, that it was a little bit hard. She really had to look at the student disability services that were offered at every school that she went to. So, it kinda peeked Gavin and I’s interest in what type of schools have great student disability services, what type of schools offer great accessibility and kind of invoke some of that universal design were striving to get on our campus. So, we decided to just look at the big five and see what we found and it was really interest.
G: That’s right. Accessibility in universities really runs the gamut, based on what we found. In terms of legislation regarding this kind of thing, it all kind of started with an act called the vocational rehabilitation act of 1973 sort of a mouth full, but it was a landmark team of four people suffering from discrimination in workplace, and in education due to mental physical disabilities and people struggling with equal access. To quote it, it says “it prohibits discrimination of otherwise qualified individuals with a disability by any program or activity receiving federal funding or other assistance.” Provisions of this included, it regarding universities specifically, include that they cant limit numbers of students with disabilities, they can’t make any pre admission inquiries about disabilities, they have–they can’t institute prohibitive rules that may negatively affect the students performance if they have a disability and so on and so forth. Essentially what this all comes down to is universities federally start having to take some action regarding disabilities
In order to receive federal funding.
P: And this is obviously a great thing in-
P: all of the work that were doing in trying to find out more about accessibility and what is and not offered, this is great news. WE wanna make sure that everybody is legally required to be equal and fair to everybody, but, it’s interesting to see how that ruling doesn’t always carry over onto physical changes on the campus.
G: That’s true, and it’s great in that it puts the issue of disability and accessibility on the national radar screen in terms of universities and other institutions. But while its on the radar screen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all universities have to meet these same general standard. What we want, one of the things we came across in research was a survey referencing some university of Connecticut website, which said that even though 86% of universities enroll and educate students with , only 24% of schools polled said that they offer those students assistance to a major extent. In quotes, which kind of says to me, dedicated services and general standardization in order to meet the needs of disabled students. So, like I said, the quality of services provided across different universities across the country kind of varies. We were able to find some data on the top five universities in the Philly area or the big five
P: Yeah we love our big five!
G: Gotta love the big five! And it made sense to us to start a little bit closer to home, especially were living in an urban environment which we will mention a little bit.
P: Yeah and we’ll find out that being in an urban environment versus a suburban
Environment, is-it is surprising in some sense a big big difference when it comes to accessibility, but back to our big five.
G: Right. In our experience, I think one of the most impressive showings was Temple. Temple University has a dedicated site for their disability resources and they offer a variety of resources like accessible housing, specific educational combinations, field education, greater accessibility, access to adaptive technology and generation of alternative format materials. So, for example, if a student has a visual disability, or a hearing disability, they can have lectures, etc transcriptions converted into wave formats, braille, you name it. Basically whatever students need.
P: Yeah this assistive technology page on this website, a quick google, is really interesting to just because from previous knowledge of their projects, I found that assistive technology is really expensive endeavor, so the fact that Temple has made those steps to be able to provide that for their students is a really great feat, and in the accessibility aspect of college campuses. And it’s at a low cost too.
G: Totally agreed. Villanova has a pretty good showing. We don’t like to mention Nova…
P’ *laughs* We don’t like to mention Nova but they were pretty good.
G: *laughs* Yeah, so they offer a lot of pretty great services. For one thing, that they offer is classroom relocation which I remember I think that came up in our episode last week.
P: It did yeah. We also do classroom relocation or schedule planning to allow students who are part of Student Disability Services to have their classes closer together or in buildings that they prefer I believe.
G: If I remember what some of the research we had, we looked at some of the reporting that the Hawk newspaper had done and students that they interviewed referenced that issue. They (referencing Villanova) also have dedicated note takers in their classes, the availability to have mics for people who need to have greater sound maybe they are hard of reading. Stenographers to transcribe lectures etc..
P: No, we have the note takers but the mics that you clip on your shirt, the LAV mics, that’s a good maybe and even easier cheaper solution to have for people who are hard of hearing. I feel like LAV mics aren’t too too expensive for large Universities so it shouldn’t be too hard to have those as an option.
G: Not necessarily I something I would of thought of.
P: Oh I would have never thought of that in a million years, so then we looked a little bit into the IVY in the big 5. So we looked into UPENN and it is interesting because before we even started project Bloom, or the Bloom Project, right we kind of found out that UPENN has something called the AMP Project. Which is the accessibility mapping project or just AMP, excuse me. So that’s really where they wanted to, two PH students, decided to crowdsource the campus and kind of come up with a map of where things were accessible, where things were not accessible in deems of school buildings, entrances, restrooms, etc.. And we are working on the same thing. We are working on 3D mapping our campus and it is proving to be a little bit harder, but not impossible, so just going through a little bit of UPENN’S project benefits is that they do have this accessibility map, that does have its flaws, but does clearly lay out buildings that are shown with different entrances, restrooms, etc. But I feel like just in general, and we will talk about this a little bit later, but because it is such an Urban campus, imagine that if you were in one class in one building and you are not offered a class in another building because it doesn’t have an entrance for you or a restroom that you can you use. You have to travel all the way across campus just to get to a restroom that you can use. And I am sure that they do everything they can to prevent this but we have seen this at our school so I am sure we are not the only ones.
G: Yeah that’s sort of an everyday obstacle that lays at the forefront of the whole issue and I agree that , honestly , mapping is one of the most crucial things I think that you can do for accessibility because it puts information about where a given student can go right at their fingertips easily. So we looked at some of the highest ranked schools in the entire country for disability. In my experience the best one that I could find was University of Michigan. I think they started taking action on disability services at something like 5 months after the rehabilitation act.
P: They were impressive.
G: Yeah so they really jumped right in the issue. Their full services are pretty impressive, their offices are called the services for students in disabilities it was founded, I believe, in 1989.
P: Yes, 1989.
G: And it offers today storage for mobility impaired students, snow removal hotlines, housing accomodations, interactive maps like the ones that Penn is developing, reading rooms, video phones for communication, and an accessible restroom directory. This is on top of their other services, sort of like what we talked about, at Villanova including interpreters, speech to text stuff where an accommodation is, testing where if you wanted to apply to other schools.
P: Great and University of Southern California was another great website that we found that kind of talks about University of Southern, or USC’s, disability services it seems that they have a lot of the same things that University of Michigan offers but it is interesting because when we were researching to kind of figure out our last big 5, Drexel’s campus we had found that they have some thing called Clockwork which allows students to kind of register to take exams with disability services which was a big aspect we saw around all school campuses. We were able to find that they do offer extra time for students who maybe suffer from a cognitive disability like dyslexia or maybe they have ADD and need the extra time to take tests which is totally normal and we see that across all campuses but physically that is more what we are looking at. Just to clarify for our listeners, but moving on, Drexel made us think, is there a listing of schools that are really great for physical disability and ones that are not?
G: Not that we could find.
P: Not that we could find, and keep in mind Gavin and I spent time researching this for this podcast, we’re not going in blind. We spent excessive time, Gavin spent excessive time Googling to find out if there was some type of standard, a national standard for people with learning disabilities or physical disabilities to be able to give them a ranking of schools that should be at the top of their list for this, and it doesn’t exist.
G: I can’t guarantee that it doesn’t exist, but if it does exist, it’s not easy to find.
P: And that’s one of the major problems that comes with things like this, is that if it’s there, it’s not easily accessible for people who need it maybe the most.
G: Sure, um…and you know what we’ve been talking about is some actually really robust examples of faculty, and staff, at universities stepping up for their disabled faculty and staff population, which is fantastic, and um…I think that’s actually kind of the cornerstone of how you make an institution like that more accessible, is to have people who are willing to go the extra mile to help out people dealing with these issues, but…in terms of actual universal design, which is kind of what we were looking to focus on for this project, I couldn’t find any kind of comprehensive publication that talks about physical design of buildings. If you’re gonna talk about that kind of thing, it kinda seems like the institution itself has to talk about it, you know, there’s no centralized resource for that sort of thing.
P: They need to show the change to make those differences.
G: It would be great if they did.
P: It’d be great, it’s make this podcast so much easier. Probably a lot less interesting, but it would definitely be, or we wouldn’t have it. We wouldn’t have this podcast if it was where it was supposed to be. We wouldn’t have it.
G: Right, and it would be especially useful in our situation because we go to an urban school, and we live around urban schools.
P: And that’s the main point Gavin that we’ve seen in all of this, the schools that we listed as the top that we were able to find…USC and University of Michigan…those are not urban schools. Those schools are located in the middle of whatever area they’re looking it, those are traditional college campuses, they’re not integrated within the city like Drexel or Temple, which is one of the reasons why Temple was such a big deal to us, because it was an integrated city campus.
P: It’s just a little bit harder because some of those schools that are not in an urban setting could be doing better. The ones that are in an urban setting are maybe struggling to do better, and they’re older too. People don’t want to change the structure of their older buildings that are traditional, because they’re beautiful and old, but at the same time they’re not accessible.
G: Right, and especially given the policy complications of rebuilding things in an urban environment, I think we’ve talked about this kind of thing before, but that’s a huge roadblock in a city like Philadelphia, which kind of explains why suburban and rural schools are able to do this, maybe not necessarily better, but definitely they’re able to act on this issue a little bit more robustly.
P: More easily, but this kind of brings us to our next point, that, as one of the purposes of this project is finding what we can do to help, and what we are going to figure out along this journey, that means that we’re going to be willing to open and listen and learn to people, not only on other campuses but on our campus. So based on what we talked about in our interview last week, we found out that our university hosts these meetings two times a year, right Gavin?
P: …Where they discuss upcoming renovations or um, acts, things that need to be moved around, I shouldn’t say acts, but…
G: Possible changes.
P: Possible changes to be made, correct. And there’s a professor in one of these meetings that she attends, and we thought it would be great to go speak with her, Dr. Tudor, and learn just a little bit more about, from a faculty perspective, what she things the school can do better to change, and how that’s impacted her job here, and what she thinks this podcast can do for our campus.
P: So, Gavin and I did a little bit of research on who attends these meetings that our interviewee Jesse mentioned last week. We found Dr. Tudor who is a professor and a Doctor in the science center and teaches classes there and is living with a disability and is living in a wheelchair. So, we decided to go talk to her. We really wanted to get an idea of just…what she hopes the bloom project can address, issues maybe she’s faced on this campus, what she learned about in those meeting and what she wishes other people saw in those meetings.
G: We wanted to talk to her a little bit about what she wanted in terms of services vs. design. It was actually a really enlightening conversation we had; we didn’t do it in an interview format but we were just again looking to learn a little bit more about the process.
P: And we learned so much it was such an all-encompassing conversation that we definitely had great expectations but she far beyond exceeded them. So, this was definitely a conversation we were so thankful to have with her and we’re really very happy that we were able to experience.
G: Yeah, she was able to give us a lot of interesting details about this issue relative specifically to Saint Joe’s. She talked a lot about the fact that hawk hill is on a hill.
P: It is Hawk Hill believe it or not.
G: It really lives up to the name and because of that, you know, there are a lot of issues with elevations like we have several major buildings were students have…that are sort of like hubs for students to go to classes but they’re all on different elevations. So, if you’re a professor or student trying to get from one to the other it can be a lot of trouble because you have to deal with long distances, high elevations, and a lot of stairs.
P: Exactly and the easiest way for you to go, the quote on quote easiest way could be the one with the highest elevations. So, shell find herself going around certain things just so it’s less, it may be more of a journey but it’s less of a struggle if that makes sense. It’s less intense, its longer but it’s maybe easier in the long run than going straight up a ramp on a hillside of a hill.
G: Yeah and it was interesting, she was talking a lot about being physically close to where she needed to go but the route that she had to take to get there was really long and circuitous no matter what she had to deal with. So that’s really one of those instances were thinking about it in terms of able body vs. not able body, your perception really changes. We think about physical closeness and we think that close is like point a to point b you can just go there but when you have to think about designated routes that only, you require to get to one place to another it becomes much much more complicated.
P: So, much more complicated and that started our whole conversation with Dr. Tudor about, it’s no secret that people who are living a disability have been told “no” a lot. Like, “no you can’t go this way you have to go this way,” and they very rarely hear yes sometimes. So, she really brought to our attention and I think we had gone into this conversation maybe understanding a little bit of this, but she really elaborated is that people that are living with a disability make do with what they have in a sense. So, she knows she has to take maybe a parking spot here or a parking spot there but she’s going to make do with that and find out what works best for her. You know what I mean, maybe she wants to go from Post to the science Center but she’s going to go a different way because that inclines just basically to steep for her to use. That can apply to anything, from her to go from hawks landing or that whole parking garage, Starbucks, bookstore area to Barbelin that’s quite an incline there with those stairs. So, what would somebody do? She’ll go all the way around and make do with what she has.
G: Right, and we talked a little bit about urban vs. suburban layout and because of that there are a lot of changes that ideally, we would make but they are just not practical.
P: There not practical or we don’t have the money t make them or its not practical right now.
G: Right, she talked a lot about that. Things that would be great to have may happen more reasonably a little bit further down the line so what do you do in the interim or maybe things aren’t worth spending a hundred thousand or even a million dollars to renovate for a relatively small part of the population. That just doesn’t… that cost benefit analysis that inevitably does happen just doesn’t really work out.
P: It’s true and she brought up to that it came full circle to the point to of like Gavin said that in a sense universal design, she reminded us, is about designing and making something that is usable and accessible for the most people but focusing in those that perhaps have a physical or other aspect of a disability. But she reminded us that its for everyone universal design benefits everyone its universal. Think of a woman who’s pushing her child in a baby stroller right. That never occurred to Gavin and I, that is a perfect example of how universal design benefits everybody. Everybody with a child is going to eventually need that ramp if they use a stroller. Facts!
G: Yeah, that actually reminded me of a sort of personal anecdote that I have. You know, my nephew was two years old not too long ago and I went on a trip with my sister with him down to Penns Landing and that was just a day of moving a stroller and i thought about — that was the one day that I had in a very very long time where I thought in terms of how great it would be if this particular tourist hub had ramps.
P: Had a ramp! Had something! And you’re like hold on I have the stroller I have the child and she said that a lot of her friends would come back to her and be like I had no idea that sometimes you just have to go out of your way to find what works for you and to make do with what you have so eventually everybody in that sense might not always be with a child, but in a sense kind of learn to adapt and use what they have, but she does this all the time so it was really — O feel like a great anecdote to describe to people who do not have a disability like myself that this is something that eventually could think about or in a sense that it really hit home — the idea of universal design. It will effect everybody in the past
G: Right. And that’s why talking about what a university institutions do in terms of accessibility– I think that’s why even though we talk a lot about universal design, there is a reason why these institutions focus so much on human services because they are practicable and because they are important, a lot of the time you think about the physical challenges, but you don’t always think about some of the psychological or social obstacles to having a disability and some of those services that are offered in terms of making people at least feel more included even if mobility things are all that practical or reasonable still goes a long way.
P: Yeah and they kind of show us too that one of the goals of this podcast is to really help remind us cause it can be really hard when you’re doing a podcast and doing it on allecnompiassing research porject to forget aboutsome of your common goals or to kind of miss a bullet point cause you’re really hitting home on the others so she really reminded us that we want to talk about the people that are maybe unseen. Those who don’t have maybe a physical disability that’s seen but maybe do sometimes struggle to go up all those stairs from Mandeville to Barbellin or who maybe having the class in Barbellin will never get to see the top because it’s just not something that’s feasible for them on certain days of the week or whenever they don’t feel well or maybe they are sensitive to light or sounds and what does that mean for them being in the atrium in merrion? That’s a lot.
G: Right, that means a building can be really lovely but it gets a little bit less lovely the more people can actually get in there to see it.
P: and it’s true if not everybody can see it then in some sense that’s a shame to a structure to its actual physical blocks.
G: Yeah exactly and in terms of talking about a building versus disabilities and just about you know things you’re born with or injuries you have — going back to the whole universal idea , some design changes that you make for people with disabilities would also apply to people who are elderly you know? If nobody stays in shape for their entire life. Eventually you will just have trouble getting around as a function of being human. So, changes that you would make for yourself that when you’re older are also changes that would help people now who would with that everyday regardless of how old they are
P: exactly and she mentioned that we don’t like to think four years from now, forty years from now, what am i gonna be like when I’m 80 or 90 or 100 god willing. What does that look like for me? And thats why its universal for every boy at every stage and she really hit home on the idea of to ask the people who are currently at that point. They’re at there now they’re not there 40 years they’re here now struggling with this, is that they understand that they’re going to have to make changes and that they’re not gonna be able to sometimes check every single box and be able to be the best building for every single person. It’s really hard to get every single one, but it gets most of them or they are doing the best that they can and sometimes they think that’s the point is that they are addressing and that they’re making an effort to do the best that they can for the most amount of people. We also found a little bit of our conversation with Dr. Tutor to be one where we were learning just more about things for the future, things that we can talk about in this podcast and something that she really wanted us to focus on is, people who maybe not necessarily have a disability or living in that sense with a mental one as well, but are transitioning or uncomfortable with using different bathrooms on this campus, she brought that to our attention. And gavin and I admitted that we really only see a couple of unisex bathrooms or gender neutral bathrooms,. It’s probably the better terms excuse me, gender neutral bathrooms. In Merrion which I believe there’s one and then in Bronstein which is where were recording right now, there’s two.
P: Be able to be the best building for every single person. It’s really hard to get every single one but it gets most of them. They’re doing the best that they can and sometimes they think that that is the point. That they are addressing it and making an effort to do the best they can for the most amount of people. We also found a little bit of our conversation with Dr. Tutor where we were learning just more about things for the future that we can talk about on this podcast and some thing that she really wanted us to focus us on as well is just people who are maybe not necessarily have a disability or living in that sense with a mental one as well but, our transitioning or our uncomfortable with using different bathrooms on this campus she brought that to our attention. And Gavin and I said we only really see a couple unisex or gender neutral bathrooms, is probably the better term, excuse me gender neutral bathrooms.
P: In Merion which I believe there is one and then in Bronstein where we are recording right now they’re two.
P: then apparently in Barbelin there is one as well, like gender neutral specified gender neutral bathrooms. But imagine traveling all the way around campus, like might not be physically pained to do so or in a physical disability to do so. But excuse me physical disability to do so but just in a comfortable format. There should be one in every building.
P: A place you feel comfortable to use the restroom. Just to have a space.
G: It’ll save you a lot of time too.
P: So much time.
G: Especially if you’re a student or faculty at a university you’re going to be crunched for time no matter what you’re doing usually. And she also brought up an interesting point like what if it’s just raining one day. Things you never really consider because you’re normalized to oh this is what I as a person has all these capacities for mobility. They’re things that you don’t really have to think about in terms of what do I do if I don’t have the use of my legs or the use of one hand. Just issues of comfort of getting from point A to point B like I said before.
P: Exactly it’s a point of respect and awareness and being comfortable like Gavin said. We are in no way in this podcast indicating that people who suffer from a mental physical, any type of disability or comfort level are helpless or not capable or not able to do anything. We are not in anyway insinuating that, we are just mentioning and merely putting out that it’s uncomfortable to do these things or maybe it goes out of your way or makes it a little bit harder to be in a wheelchair when it’s raining outside going on your route. That’s hard that shouldn’t be a secret.
G: And Dr. Tutors attitude when we were talking about this with her was a really great one because it was like you should it you’re dealing with a disability, your attitude should become as capable as you can be. I think a good thing that were kind of approaching this project with is the world at large should try in anyway can become a little bit more accommodating towards that, but you know it is a two way street. It’s something that you as an individual deal with but it’s something that the people around you can alleviate.
P: Exactly and a reminder that we will all eventually have to deal with this in some aspect. We will all go and she brought up that age aspect which we had never considered before but it’s a really great point and that is why it’s universal design. So because our conversation with Dr. Tutor was so all encompassing and she really gave us so much information, thank you to her. We are going to continue some of the other topics and aspects once we do a little bit more research that she discussed with us and we are going to carry that into next week. But this past week we wanted to quickly mention how we had our admitted students day here on hawk hill which is always a great day with a lot of people going around.
G: Always very busy.
P: It’s such a busy weekend and one of the girls on our blog team here at Project Bloom mentioned how her roommate was a hawk host and there was an admitted student whose mother was bound to a wheelchair as well and was unable to go to some of the talks to her daughters desired or chosed major because they were in buildings that she couldn’t reach. We want you guys to follow the story at project bloom blog.
G: Right it’s important to follow up with this kind of thing because it’s actual real, practical thing that are happening as we speak as we are making this podcast, and they’re issues that families face every day. It;s stuff that is relevant. Definitely follow the blog as well if you’re following the podcast because they do great work and they are really looking to expose things that happen on this issue.
P: Follow our Instagram too so you can get all the links to all of the blogs, so it’s projectbloomsju.org.
G: Follow all the socials. But like Paige said we are going to continue exploring the things we talked about with our faculty in the future. They’re going to be a lot of great episodes about advocacy and representation and we know it’s a lot of information but we’re happy that you bare with us and tune in for future episodes. Thanks so much for listening everybody.
P: Thank so much guys.
P: Follow our Instagram so you can stay up to date on all of our blogs and everything else at projectbloomsju