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Disability Resource Center’s new location provides welcome spot for students

January 13, 2020

Relocated from the Health Services Building, the Disability Resource Center has found a new, student-friendly home in the Campus Life Building.

Employees settling into the spot as the new year began shared the same sentiment: “It’s the right place to be.”

Students and staff settle into the new location of the Disability Resource Center in the Campus Life Building.

Aligned with the university’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan, which outlines President Lisa Freeman’s goals to make NIU as welcoming and as inclusive for all students as possible, the move to Suite 180 in the Campus Life Building provides a more accessible and comfortable spot for students to access services.

And it puts the Disability Resource Center right where it belongs, in a place where Huskies go to access other student services, including Military and Post-Traditional Student Services, Career Services, the University Honors Program and Counseling and Consultation Services.

Previously located in the Health Services Building for several decades, the Disability Resource Center was on a fourth floor with limited space and parking, Director Debra Miller said.

Among the numerous services and accommodations provided to anywhere from 800 to 1,000 students at a time, the center offers testing rooms for students requiring space with limited distractions, extra time, specific software or equipment and other needs not typically available in the classroom.

As the center’s staff expanded through the years, the testing space became increasingly limited in the Health Services Building, Miller said. Students would sometimes have to be crowded into testing rooms to be accommodated.

The Disability Resource Center’s new space in the Campus Life Building has provided more space for testing.

The move to the Campus Life Building allows the Disability Resource Center to expand from nine to 17 testing rooms.

 “Low distraction testing is not having a bunch of people in a room where you’re trying to take a test, especially during sniffle season, so that aspect is huge for students,” said Amanda Newman, associate director at the center. “It’s breathing room.”

The expanded space makes it easier for the testing coordinator to accommodate all students.

“It’s flexibility,” Office Manager Karen Eaton said.

Students now have a lounge area and a waiting room. They have access to Campus Life Building vending machine areas, as well as a nearby lounge space open to all students through Military and Post-Traditional Student services.

“I think the new space as a whole is a lot more welcoming to students,” said Carrie Aldrich, Interpreting/C.A.R.T. coordinator for the center.

 “When students would come with appointments to our old space they would have to sit in the hallway right outside one of our offices to wait. Now we have an area where students can sit, and it’s quiet.”

The new location also provides work spaces and computer areas for many of the part-time and contracted employees Aldrich oversees to ensure students have access to the adaptive technology, interpreters and reformatted course materials they need. Those spaces weren’t available in the previous location. 

The center also works with students to provide housing, dietary and other accommodations.

Along with the larger space, the move provides another benefit. It sends the right message to students and their families, Miller said.

The previous location in a medical setting aligned the center with health services. A medical environment can send a message that the disability needs to be altered or fixed, when, in truth, a disability is a characteristic of an individual, Miller said. 

“The move is very much about being in a student-focused space,” she said. “This is in total alignment with the policies President Freeman set forth and the commitment of the university to have a larger space for student for their benefit and access.”

The Disability Resource Center will be hosting an open house on Friday, Jan. 31 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in their new space at the Campus Life Building, suite 180.  Members of the campus community are encouraged to attend.