National publication College Magazine recently credited Missouri State University for its disability efforts. An Aug. 27 article titled, “Top 10 Universities for Students with Disabilities 2020,” recognized the university as one of the top 10 in the nation for students with disabilities.
Missouri State also stood out for the President’s Council on Accessibility. The council reports to university President Clif Smart. It acts as an advisory and oversight committee regarding accessibility issues, including how they interact with policies, practices, instructional programs and facilities.
A student’s perspective
Missouri State junior Sydney Davis is one tough student. On top of history education studies, she regularly battles brain fog, fatigue, pain and trouble walking long distances. Her symptoms are a result of multiple chronic illnesses, including fibromyalgia and congestive heart failure.
Davis said Missouri State’s Disability Resource Center has made her time as a college student manageable.
“Missouri State is a great school for students with disabilities,” Davis said. “The staff were so helpful when I came in to create my accommodation memo. They explained what options I had and made me feel prepared for the semester.”
Davis receives accommodations, such as a notetaker, time and a half for tests, and disability absences.
“I miss a lot of class due to bad flare days and constant doctor appointments, and teachers can’t really count that against me,” Davis said. “I also get PowerPoints early, so that I can copy them on my own time and look at them at my own pace during class if the teacher clicks through too quickly.”
Delta Alpha Pi, a campus organization exclusively for students with disabilities, also helps Davis feel part of campus life.
“It’s a space completely inclusive and welcoming,” Davis said. “It’s the only organization on campus I’ve been able to connect with people who share the same struggles and experiences that having a disability brings.”
Bettering campus culture
At Missouri State, a lot of hard work is taking place to serve students with disabilities like Davis.
Some examples include:
- The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning regularly leads accessibility boot camps.
- Graduate assistants lead events such as Disability Equity Week.
- Leaders for the President’s Council on Accessibility take steps to make their own areas more inclusive.
The university has also taken steps to train faculty and staff in document accessibility.
While the recognition is welcomed, Missouri State still has room for improvement in advancing disability inclusion on campus, according to Lozano.
MSU’s Disability Resource Center Director Justin Lozano hopes Missouri State can build a culture that recognizes disability as diversity, instead of viewing it as compliance and meeting requirements retroactively.
“Compliance is important, but it should be achieved from proactive inclusion,” Lozano said.
Missouri State’s ranking
According to College Magazine, internet research and a point system determined Missouri State’s No. 9 ranking.
After determining certain criteria for inclusion on the list, if a university matched a certain level, a corresponding number of points were awarded.
College Magazine also recognized Missouri State for its Diversity and Inclusion Plan, a climate study.