Shippensburg University ranked 12th nationally in 2016 for its disability studies programs by Great College Deals.
“I think it’s impressive that we were ranked so well,” said Allison Carey, director of disability studies. “We outranked many, much larger and more expensive schools.”
SU ranked above 48 other colleges, including Temple University and Gallaudet University. Colleges were judged for quality of courses, staff, internships and presence on campus.
Disabilities studies is offered as a minor at SU. It currently has around 90 students.
It was recognized for having classes across all three colleges and 10 departments with flexible requirements so students can specialize for their majors and careers.
“Disability studies is a relatively new program nationally,” Carey said.
Many careers now have a need for disability awareness. Historians, computer programmers, architects, urban planners and more need knowledge on the subject besides the recognized fields of education, human resources and justice and law.
The minor offers many internship opportunities including therapeutic support staff at local school districts, human services, day centers and treatment programs at local prisons.
The disability studies department also sponsors speakers, shows films, holds charity events and hosts other activities to raise awareness about disability studies each semester.
There are several student clubs and associations focused on disability awareness including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Disability Awareness Club, Special Olympics and the Student Council for Exceptional Children.
The department is also heading efforts to bring disability awareness resources to SU faculty. It is partnering with the Instructional Design and Web Technologies to develop a new D2L course for teachers to learn how to make their online classes accessible. Currently, Online Instruction 100 has one module on the subject.
“We decided that since disability is so important it needed its own course,” said Ryan Kudasik, a designer working on the project.
The course will include a list of resources, tips and best practices with how-to videos and instructional texts.
“Disability for me breaks down into two parts: laws and regulations and technical. Best practices is the technical aspect,” Kudasik said.
The course will focus on the universal design approach, designing all programs to be accessible from the start instead of segmenting the coursework between disabled and non-disabled students.
The project will be finished in May and will be available for the fall semester.
SU is also undergoing a physical transformation to make the campus more disability friendly.
“One of the major problems on campus is accessible routes,” said J. Lance Bryson, associate vice president for facilities.
The facilities department is in construction and planning 16 projects to bring to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) building codes to several areas of campus that will cost $5.7 million.
This semester the facilities department is adding signs marking ADA entrances, replacing the stage lift at Memorial Auditorium, adding a stage lift to Old Main Chapel, adding sidewalks to the Conference Center and adding a ramp to the Little Red Schoolhouse historical site.
Planned projects over the summer include rebuilding the John L. Grove Hall basement ramp, extending the sidewalks at Grace B. Luhrs Elementary School, adding a ramp to the Franklin Science Center’s rear door and replacing the large steps between Shippen Hall and Dauphin Humanities Center.
Future projects include adding interior signs for public areas, installing an elevator in Stewart Hall, replacing the entrance patio, steps and ramp at Memorial Auditorium, rebuilding the ramps at Seth Grove Stadium and various other ADA ramps and handrails.