As the university prepares to celebrate its Sesquicentennial, we also celebrate the university's 50-year commitment to serving students with disabilities. Since 1968, UW-Whitewater has provided dedicated services to address accessibility and provide accommodations related to facilities, transportation, programs, and more. Through unique features including universal design across campus, nationally recognized wheelchair basketball teams, a summer transition program, and a supportive campus culture, students with disabilities find a welcoming, inclusive community at this 4-year comprehensive university in southwest Wisconsin. Read more about what makes UW-Whitewater a leader in its commitment to disability services below:
Universal design is never an afterthought or special consideration at UW-Whitewater. In fact, it stands out as one of the few institutions willing to employ universal design in all campus buildings. The university has a policy in place to ensure that universal design is a standard for all new construction or remodeling on the campus. This inclusive approach is felt across the student body as student with disabilities do not face barriers to interacting with the rest of the student body within living arrangements, clubs and organizations, sports, or classes anywhere on campus.
UW-Whitewater's Geography and Geology department developed an interactive university campus map for use by individuals with mobility needs to ensure that any barriers are identified between destinations that may require a different route.
Considerations for the population of students with disabilities has been a natural part of the planning process when developing a Campus Master Plan and a new campus Strategic Plan. The number of students with disabilities served on the UW-Whitewater campus is higher than at any other comprehensive institution in the state.
Dr. Elizabeth Watson, director of the Center for Students with Disabilities, is a strong advocate for sustained resources in support of disability services, and has a great deal of expertise in leading a center with a 50-year history of supporting the university's mission to serve our disabled student population. The center is funded by guaranteed program monies, ensuring a sustained institutional commitment to ongoing support that can be scaled and staffed as needed with growing enrollment.
UW-Whitewater has been the leader among comprehensive institutions in Wisconsin in the enrollment of students with disabilities for 15 years, and is poised to sustain that commitment well into the future with resources that include: a successful summer transition program offered since 1987, employment programming to support students transitioning out of college, and adaptive transportation within the city of Whitewater. Additional contract and grant monies are routinely sought by the center for regional and state projects supporting the Wisconsin Idea serving individuals with disabilities and community partners beyond our campus ($1.43M in 2018!).
UW-Whitewater is home to men's and women's intercollegiate national championship wheelchair basketball teams. The athletes take their talent and inspiring message to the community through opportunities including summer camps for children with mobility impairment, and a disability awareness program that has been presented throughout the Midwest and is popular with local school districts and educational programming events.
The Men's Wheelchair Basketball team has won National Championships in 1982, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
The Women's Wheelchair Basketball team has won National Championships in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
UW-Whitewater engages in regional and national recruitment of prospective students with disabilities, demonstrating a unique partnership with Admissions officers to highlight targeted services available to help students be successful academically and to find a community where they feel a sense of belonging.
The Center for Students with Disabilities has implemented a low-cost assessment for enrolled students seeking diagnosis of learning disabilities. This service creates a convenient and financially responsible option for students who may not have existing documentation of a disability, however feel that they may require services to be successful.
Planning for the transition from high school to college is an exciting and somewhat confusing time. To help families and students, the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) offers the Summer Transition Program, a rigorous four-week transition program for incoming freshmen with disabilities. The intent of this program is to help students make a positive transition from high school to university life while introducing and familiarizing them to a typical college course load. Students are enrolled in two, 3-credit courses and are encouraged to devote a significant amount of time to complete all tasks assigned by class instructors. Students have opportunities to access support and assistance from CSD staff and graduate students to assist them with the learning process. A variety of opportunities are available for students to develop relationships with campus and community resources. Transition Mentors help students during the move-in process and through other activities aimed at promoting their academic and social adjustment to college life.