Brings Security to UI Students
by Jessica Schuh, Daily Illini, October 7, 2003
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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,
Some students with physical disabilities do not require live-in
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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