NEW YORK, Nov. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Wheelchair lifestyle magazine New Mobility has announced the release ofWheels on Campus, a comprehensive college guide for wheelchair users that identifies 20 wheelchair-friendly campuses and cultures that promote an inclusive college experience.
"The culture of inclusion can be extremely different at different institutions," says Jean Dobbs, Wheels on Campus project director and New Mobility publisher. "We wanted to find those gems, those schools that really go above and beyond to say, 'Your wheelchair is welcome here, your service dog is welcome here, you are welcome here.'"
Starting with a list of 400 colleges and universities highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, researchers sent out an exacting survey to disability service offices throughout the United States.
Respondents were scored on 45 criteria specific to wheelchair-using students, including wheelchair-friendly campus terrain, percentage of independently-accessible buildings, integrated accessible housing options, personal assistance programs, adaptive sports and recreation, accessible on-campus transportation, adaptive computer labs, inclusive fraternities and sororities, and more.
To verify survey results that indicated a wheelchair-friendly culture, Wheels on Campus sent wheelchair-using reporters to perform personal tours and inspections and interview students and staff on several campuses. When the pandemic complicated that process, reporters confirmed survey results with extensive phone interviews and online research in combination with their personal experience.
"A welcoming atmosphere is so important to college success," says Wheels on Campus editor Tim Gilmer, a wheelchair user since he was a student at UCLA decades ago. "It is our fervent hope that this unique guide will prove to be a useful and encouraging evaluative tool for prospective and existing college students of all ages and abilities."
In addition to survey responses, institutions were scored on the number of wheelchair users registered by disability resource offices on each campus. Results demonstrated a strong correlation between the number of registered wheelchair users and a full range of programs and activities that create a truly wheelchair-inclusive culture.
"It's not just about buildings and accommodations," says Thomas Webb, disability services director at Wright State University, one of the top schools in the guide. "We want to build a culture, and the Americans with Disabilities Act is just a building block, a kind of foundation."
Allison Thompkins, an MIT graduate and quadriplegic wheelchair user, explains the importance of building this foundation of inclusion. "For someone with my complicated level of disability to excel academically and be fully immersed in the life of an institution, universities must be committed to providing extra support services that aren't required by law."
New Mobility is also hosting a free webinar that will highlight the guide on Thursday, November 19th at 3-4 pm EST.
About New Mobility New Mobility is the membership publication of United Spinal Association and the leading quality of life publication for wheelchair users and those with mobility-related disabilities. Since 1989, the magazine has been committed to telling authentic stories with diverse voices from within the wheelchair-using community.