|@St. Norbert May 2008 - A room of her own||St. Norbert College|
Stephanie Birmingham ’09 (left) shows off one of the modifications of her room, a desk that raises and lowers to accommodate her needs. At right, Nina Nolan ’07 (Office of Communications), who contributed to this article.
A room of her own
A student room modified to meet one junior’s particular needs is one outcome of a plan to better serve students with disabilities.
This project was begun with all residents in mind but certain modifications were made particularly for the room’s first occupant, Stephanie Birmingham ’09.
The configuration of the new apartment has afforded Birmingham a new level of independence. Most particularly, she no longer needs to rely on a caregiver’s assistance with daily routines, as she did when a resident of Lorraine Hall.
And when she graduates, her room can be reconfigured for other residents with disabilities.
Birmingham was delighted when Res Life invited her to move in to a Carriage House apartment—the first upperclass living option available to students dependent on wheelchairs.
Corday Goddard (Residential Life) said, “The nature of this sort of work is that we try to adapt to each student’s needs as we learn of them. So, we have some wardrobes that have a low hanging bar for clothing, for students in wheelchairs; we have “roll-in” showers in a couple of spaces; in the past we’ve had flashing fire alarms for a student who was deaf; we have automatic door openers on room doors and common shower areas for students in wheelchairs.”
In addition to private bathroom facilities and automatic doors, the remodeled apartment has a desk that raises and lowers based on the resident’s needs, and modified shelving and lighting controls. The room is intentionally uncarpeted to make it easier for a wheelchair user to move around and keep things clean.
Birmingham says she is excited about her new room and notes that it will continue to be useful for future residents. She is impressed with the college’s willingness to make the campus as inclusive as it can be.
Goddard, in fact, sees these types of modifications as essential. “My job is to make campus a safe place for all students who want to live here, especially for those that have special needs. It’s also important to me that, as much as possible, students living on campus are living in the same sort of world they’ll move into after leaving SNC, and that world is incredibly, wonderfully diverse, made up of people from all walks of life, with all kinds of abilities.”
A plan to better serve students with disabilities recognized several opportunities to develop improved living options. The college has already completed modest adaptations of Lorraine Hall, a traditional residence dormitory, where two traditional rooms were converted into an accessible suite.
Dick Rankin ’65, vice president emeritus for student life, worked with a donor to secure funding for renovations of the Carriage House apartment, and the overhaul of Birmingham’s room in particular. This project was much more complex. Not only was one of the bedrooms of the apartment expanded to allow for wheelchair access, but a “roll-in” shower and a handicap accessible toilet were also installed.
As resources allow, Residential Life would like to make a college-owned house and a suite in Victor McCormick Hall universally accessible.