The Residence Hall Association’s Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force hosted their inaugural Disability Inclusion Week last week.
This week-long event included various tabling activities in the Olmsted Breezeway with programs such as “Contemplation and a Cookie” and “Pie an RA [and others] for a Good Cause.” There was also an event called “Community Conversation, which was a conversation about how not only the community at Drake could become more inclusive, but society as a whole.
The main event during the week was a panel discussion, which was hosted at the Harkin Center on March 22. This panel featured various speakers including Senator Tom Harkin, who was the co-sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act; Adam Koch, a Drake alumnus who serves on the Iowa Commission of Persons with Disabilities; Kelly Moreland, who is the vice president of development at Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley, Michelle Laughlin, the director of Access and Success for Drake University, and Ava Basso, a first-year student at Drake.
The approximately 45-minute panel tackled difficult topics such as challenges people living with disabilities face on a daily basis, as well as how not only the university but the world could improve.
“Because of my blindness, I have had trouble finding employment off campus,” Basso said. “I think we have a lot of room to grow.”
It was hosted in the Tom and Ruth Harkin Center, which is considered one of the most accessible buildings on campus and in the United States by Tom Harkin, whom the building is named after. Rather than stairs, the building features wide ramps and hallways to move between floors. There is a focus on having natural light and contrasting colors for individuals with visual impairments and the board rooms are designed with circular seating to foster communication and collaboration while keeping in mind those who are deaf or hearing impaired.
Residents, friends and Drake University staff pied volunteer Resident Assistants for a cash donation to the Easter Seals foundation, which focuses on its mission of providing funding and support for 100% equity, inclusion and access for people with disabilities, families and communities.
“[I volunteered because] I’ve known Matthew for three years; it was a cause I cared about so when the opportunity approached me I was excited to volunteer,” year Fritz Meltzl said.
The ADA Task Force is chaired by Matthew Williams, a senior at Drake. The task force is made up of students who currently serve on the Resident Hall Association board, including Sarah Tracy, Katie Krueger, Trinity Houston, Sharon Solomon, Abby King and Payton Blahut.
For more information and questions about future events from the Residence Hall Association or ADA Taskforce, contact the RHA president at firstname.lastname@example.org.