Bemidji State Students Strive to Improve Accessibility, Inclusiveness on Campus
The students in Sherry Holloway’s Inclusive P.E. class at Bemidji State University are taught how to meet the needs of all students through movement. But when a disabled person and prospective came to speak to them, the students were surprised to learn they were looking elsewhere for college because BSU lacked accessibility in many areas.
This sparked the class to take action, setting up a wheelchair tour of the campus and inviting BSU President Dr. John Hoffman to join them and experience what it is like firsthand for disabled students, faculty, and staff in the Bemidji State community.
Led by professor of psychology and wheelchair user Dr. Thomas Dirth, the students and president discovered ADA requirements go well beyond having buttons to open doors and elevators or ramps to reach the next floor instead of stairs. Correct signage and maps are required to help assist disabled students know what paths to take to traverse the campus. Some signs were posted to indicate ADA requirements were met, but even then, it can be a challenge for people with disabilities to navigate areas such as bathrooms, narrow doorways, or small elevators.
Bemidji State student-athlete Jana Swanson was grateful the President was there for the eye-opening experience. “For him to be in the chair along with his wife, Joy, was super cool,” she said. “It doesn’t just take one person, we have to come together as a community and change.”
Jaxon Leindecker, another student in Inclusive P.E., shared those sentiments. “Obviously it’s not an overnight thing,” he admitted. “This is just one small step of many steps that needs to be achieved.”
President Hoffman also acknowledged there was lots of work to be done to fix the inadequacies. “The reality is, that I’ve got to roll up my sleeves and help [donors] to connect to our campus, to our students so that we can do more to create that future.”