By Cassandra Castillo, Assistant Features Editor—
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga recently ranked No. 22 in the country for providing the best disability programs for students according to College Consensus.
This site combines results of the most reputable college ranking publishers, including U.S. News and World Report, and student reviews from around the web.
The university’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) helps 900 to 1,000 students on average each school year. Although there has been a rise in numbers recently, the department aids any number of students with disabilities in all courses or programs.
“[The DRC] lets me know what accommodations the student needs and then I can ask them questions or information about how to best help the student,” said Neely Adams, adjunct professor in Engineering Management and Technology. “It’s all done very well.”
The department’s stated mission is to ‘provide leadership for creating a proactive culture of disability awareness on campus and in the community.” They do this by providing workshops, such as Disability Ambassadors, to help students be more mindful of those with disabilities. Dr. Michelle Rigler, the executive director for the DRC and the Mosaic program, stated that the training begins with the history of disability in the United States, and moves through time into the disability pride culture that is emerging today.
“Participants are able to join for three hours full of activities and education that ends with them making a commitment to help our community move towards a culture of access at UTC,” Rigler siad. “It is available each semester or to groups at request. It is wonderful to watch participants start to view the world around them through a lens of accessibility.”
In a recent email, Chancellor Steven Angle noted the outstanding work being done by the Disability and Resource Center staff. They, however, credit the administration and university.
“I would contribute our success to three things: our campus administration trusts us and allows us to do very good work, the incredible staff of both the DRC and the Mosaic Program are always learning and growing to continue to work at a high caliber and the institutional commitment to developing a culture of access instead of being focused only on compliance,” Rigler said.
The DRC believes that they can still improve their resources to better suit the needs of people with disabilities and they want the school to do the same. One such improvement is becoming more conscious about accessibility.
“I feel like UTC as a whole has made a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and disability is certainly identified in that commitment,” Rigler said. “I think we are where we can improve as a campus to always think about accessibility in the planning stages of everything. We certainly have grown in this area, but there is always room for improvement.”
Students who use the department’s resources can attest to how easy it is to find accommodations. Freshman Morgan Dunham said her process was a relatively easy one, as opposed to the ordeal she had imagined.
“I think the hardest part is making sure you have all forms you may need to hand to the front desk area so they can copy it to your records.” Dunham said. “After that you just go to an iPad and sign up. After a couple of weeks you have a DRC meeting on Zoom and they will help you with your accommodations.”
The department’s resources include counseling services and accommodations that are individualized to address specific needs. Communication access, exam accommodations, note-taking accommodations, and many more are available for UTC students and may be requested at any time through the DRC.
The disability resource center can be contacted through DRC@UTC.EDU or 423-425-4006.