by Kirrily Schwarz
Since an ankle injury confined him to a wheelchair, Johnnie Templeton had a unique opportunity to experience life as a disabled student firsthand.
Templeton, a history major who works part-time for Disability Support Services and is a USUAA senator, injured his ankle playing volleyball.
“It’s not broken, but I may have ripped some tendons and whatnot. It was pretty painful,” he said.
Working for DSS means Templeton was already aware of a number of issues disabled students faced on campus, but in light of his recent experience in a wheelchair, he says UAA’s facilities are “pretty up to par” overall.
“The only bathroom I’ve had trouble with is the one here in the Student Union,” he said. “The Wells Fargo (Sports Complex) bathrooms are excellent, and the ones in Cuddy Hall, well, they’re working on it.
“All of the elevators have been pretty accessible, but the doors between the Student Union and the sports complex are tricky. The shuttle’s been great, too.”
Navigating the wheelchair through snow and opening doors is challenging, but Templeton says his difficulties have been alleviated by the abundance of considerate students on campus who offer to help him out.
Templeton said despite low student enrollments at UAA lately, the need for handicapped facilities is actually increasing.
“Nationwide, 10 to 12 percent of students are students with disabilities,” Templeton said. “If UAA has approximately 20,000 students, then around 2000 of those students are students with disabilities.”
In light of this, DSS is currently working on establishing a trust within the University of Alaska Foundation to be used as a means to establish scholarships for students with disabilities.
“At the moment, we’re looking for contributions,” DSS Director Jon Deisher said. “We want to have enough to develop a corpus of around $100,000, which would be capable of generating interest, and that interest would then help generate scholarships.”
Deisher says because DSS doesn’t already have a trust, it is not able to give financial help to students in need as easily as other student services at UAA.
“The idea is that students who really need support will be able to get it,” he said. “We’re simply trying to be on equal footing with other student services on campus. It would be nice to have the independence to be able to grant money to those who need it.”
Money donated to the fund will not be used for staff salaries or UAA infrastructure, but will go directly to helping students. Deisher says if there is enough money, some may even be able to go toward research-related studies to accommodate persons with disabilities in Alaska. However, he stresses that this would be a strictly a secondary purpose, and that assisting students is the first priority.
“At the moment, it’s a developing concept and a pie in the sky idea,” Deisher said. “But a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, and we need to have something to aim for.”
Donations can be made payable to the University of Alaska Foundation, care of Disability Support Services.
For more information visit Disability Support Services in RH 101.