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Article of Interest - College

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Beckwith Hall Brings Security to UI Students
by Jessica Schuh, Daily Illini, October 7, 2003
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Beckwith Hall might seem like any other residence hall on campus from the outside some students type away in the computer lab while others hang out in each other's rooms laughing and talking.

The only visible difference here is that students living in Beckwith have physical disabilities.

Kate Cornell, junior in LAS, has lived in Beckwith Hall since she transferred to the University at the beginning of her sophomore year. The residence hall caught her attention when, on a visit to campus, a tour guide mentioned that Beckwith specialized in housing students with physical disabilities. She went on a tour of the hall later that day.

"At first it was overwhelming because everyone here has a physical disability," she said. "I'm used to being a minority and here I'm a majority, which makes things easier."

For this majority, there are personal assistants to help them with their daily tasks.

Kathleen Madayag, director of Beckwith, hires and trains the personal assistants to work at the hall, Cornell said. The personal assistants visit Cornell at set times each day to help her with such things as getting dressed or showering, she said. Beckwith provides personal assistants for up to five hours a day, according to the hall's Web site.

"There is always someone here called a floater," Cornell said. "If I spill my pop and I need someone to clean it for me, the floater can help me."

Cornell said floaters are on duty and available to assist students 24 hours a day.

In addition, meal assistants help those residents who might have difficulty carrying trays or eating without assistance.

Gary Obaob, junior in LAS, has worked at Beckwith as a floater and personal assistant for two years.

Obaob said he wanted to work at Beckwith because his brother is in a wheelchair.

"(The most rewarding part of my job) is just getting to know everyone here," he said. "They may be my employers, but I consider them my friends, too."

Students with physical disabilities who choose to live in other University residence halls do not live with personal assistants, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing at the University. However, Ruby said all University housing is compliant with the American Disabilities Act. The University also tries to cater to those with physical disabilities by giving them special options, such as the ability to rent a double room as a single. This gives residents extra room if they are in a wheelchair or living with an animal to assist them, Ruby said.

Some students with physical disabilities do not require live-in personal assistants.

For Shannon Morrisey, junior in applied life studies and former member of the University's Women's Wheelchair basketball team, wheelchair accessibility wasn't the only factor when deciding where to live.

Morrisey said she chose to live in Snyder Hall because of its central campus location and because she had basketball practice early in the mornings at IMPE five days a week. She said although there is always room for improvement, accessibility in Snyder and throughout campus is good.

"You're going to find (discrimination) wherever you go, but people are accepting for the most part," Morrisey said.

If there are any problems, students can call the Office of Rehabilitation Services and request improvements, Cornell said.

"We're happy that (those with physical disabilities) have chosen to live with us, and we try to make every accommodation to make that possible," Ruby said.

Cornell said students living in Beckwith need more physical help in their daily lives.

"I think it would be stressful to live on my own without Beckwith because I always know someone is here if something happened," she said.

She said all the residents in Beckwith become close to one another because they all understand each other.

Students have the opportunity to be on the Government for the Advancement of Beckwith, which works with the director to make sure everyone is happy, she said.

"We count on each other," Cornell said. "Just because we're disabled doesn't mean we can't help each other."

    

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