Responding to increased interest in the needs of those with disabilities, UMass Dartmouth offered its first-time Accessibility Awareness Week this spring.
"With last year marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), it seemed like the perfect time to highlight UMassD’s current progress and future opportunities around accessibility issues," said Prof. Andrew Revell of the Psychology Department, who organized the events.
How it feels to drive a wheelchair
The week included a "Wheelchair Experience Day," which offered the opportunity to try a manual wheelchair. Held on the campus quad, the event featured several new manual wheelchairs that students, faculty, and staff were able to test drive outside on sidewalks and ramps.
Earlier in the week, representatives from the Massachusetts Office of Disability presented a program on "Disability Rights in the United States and the Americans with Disabilities Act." Rita DiNunzio, training manager, and Evan Bjorklund, general counsel, reviewed the objectives, priorities, and resources of their office and related state agencies that work to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
"The week was a wonderful success," said Revell. "I hope we can offer it again next year, possibly with more events and speakers."
Revell has studied the topic of falling and disability in late life in his Southcoast Cognitive Aging Study, which focused on the cognition and health of adults in southeastern Massachusetts. He is working on additional lines of research on disability and accessibility.
Popular new course: Aging & Disability
A new course on aging and disability, offered for the first time this spring, was very popular. The students’ final project was to create the prototype of a device for someone with a disability. Revell said there is also interest in creating an advanced disability design course as well as a design weekend for prototyping disability-based products.
In the fall, a new UMassD committee on accessibility will assess existing resources for those with disabilities and recommend additional modifications.
Accessibility Awareness Week was co-sponsored by the Ora M. DeJesus Gerontology Center, the Healthy Aging Seminar Series, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Test-drive wheelchairs were provided by Dartmouth Medical Equipment, with Facilities staff providing delivery.