The University’s most well-known disability asset for students is the Accessibility Resource Center (ARC). This organization is a department within UNM Student Services that has provided accommodations for students and employees with registered physical and intellectual disabilities for the past forty years. The center provides the 1,300 students that utilize its services with resources such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, textbooks in Braille, private exam rooms and countless other accommodations necessary for these students to be able to attend the University.
Joan Green recently celebrated her fourteenth anniversary as director of the ARC. She said the mission of the ARC is to “ensure there is equal access on campus for not just students, but the public and any visitors or employees who are here.”
Though Green said she believes the ARC and the mission it represents have significantly improved over the years, she said there is still progress to be made on UNM’s campus in terms of accessibility of disability resources. However, she is actively working towards a solution.
“Within the last year, we requested an outside company called Accessology to look at things such as wheelchair ramps and prioritize these amenities. They’ve already drafted a report, and we’re hoping they’ll present a finalized version to the Board of Regents early in the Fall,” Green said.
This report will be the first of its kind in the many years the center has been at UNM. Its approval would specifically allow for accessibility of technology-driven disability resources, such as the installation of cameras on automatic doors that open upon registering a person approaching them.
When asked what the UNM student population can do to raise disability awareness, Green replied that starting the conversation on disability rights is key. “In the last year, there was an ASUNM resolution specific to students with disabilities. It helps everyone to start thinking about it. Also, stories in the Daily Lobo are helpful, whether it’s about service animals on campus or other things, it always helps raise awareness,” Green said.
Katie Weinland, who has been attending UNM for five years, utilizes the ARC’s resources regularly. Among other services, Weinland has been provided with note-takers, testing rooms and schedules, and the PDF versions of books. Additionally, Weinland lives in an on-campus apartment specific to her wheelchair needs. She commented that her living space is both easily accessible and in good condition.
Weinland spokes of her experience both at the ARC and at UNM in general as an immensely positive one, but she recognizes there are a few accessibility issues in need of improvement. One such issue is handicap parking.
“[Handicap spots] are not policed very well,” Lee Weinland, Katie’s father, said. “There are people at the University who do not have a legitimate disability that park in the handicap spots. And this quite frequently makes it difficult for Katie to get parking.”
However, Weinland and her father said they were both impressed with UNM’s willingness to overcome shortcomings in disability accessibility. For example, she had noticed a few months ago that the handicap button by the door of the Student Union Building was broken. Once she mentioned the issue to faculty members, the button was immediately fixed.
“I think UNM is very responsive if they know what needs to be done,” Lee Weinland said of the matter.
When asked what UNM students can do to help, Katie Weinland immediately stated, “They need to understand that we’re people too. We’re people first, disability second.”
Beatrice Nosoli is a freelancer for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli.