by Torre Puckett

Over the summer, Sweetland undertook to revamp its accessibility in order to ensure more equitable use of its services for disabled students. Through the summer and fall semesters since the director Tessa instigated this project, we have been hard at work collecting information, gathering a team, and developing a network with existing disability resources on campus. The expertise of our new allies has helped us develop a vision for our accessibility improvements and begin to plan substantive and sustainable change to make Sweetland a more accessible space.

In this period, two graduate research fellows with expertise in disability studies and writing center work were hired (myself, Torre Puckett, and Andrew Appleton-Pine) to conduct research and make recommendations about accessibility improvements. We forged new connections between Sweetland and various existing disability services organizations on campus, such as ASAP (Academic Support & Access Partnerships, the academic support branch of Services for Students with Disabilities), the accessibility team at U-M Information Technology Services, LSA Technology Services, and LSA’s Disability Navigators. An accessibility audit was performed of our digital and physical spaces, both by professional auditors and our newly formed Student Advisory Board, which consists of students with disabilities at various stages in their academic careers. The Peer Writing Center independently began to undertake accessibility improvements for their spaces and in their training, and other programs are collaborating in our accessibility improvement efforts.

Looking ahead, we are excited to begin implementing the plans we have developed from the expertise of our new allies. Changes are ongoing and we consider our current efforts as only the beginning of a continual journey towards greater inclusion, but we have been energized by the enthusiastic response our efforts have received from administrators, consultants, and allies beyond Sweetland. We look forward to the responses of future users of our more accessible services.