Warhawk Almanac: Accessibility and Progress: A Warhawk Tradition – 1974

Gebel. Graphically illustrating the plight of wheelchaired students, Chancellor James Connor ponders a means of entering Hyer Hall. in the Royal Purple (Whitewater: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, October 9, 1974), 1.

In 2020, New Mobility magazine ranked UW-Whitewater fifth nationally in wheelchair friendly campuses.[1] This honor reflects more than 50 years of dedication to improving the accessibility of campus for all Whitewater students. Although campus officials were concerned with accessibility before the 1970s, movement towards reform found significant support under the guidance of Chancellor James R. Connor.

Chancellor James Connor. in the Whitewater Register (Whitewater: Whitewater Register, October 10, 1974), 1.

On October 7th, 1974, Chancellor Connor and eleven other campus and community members participated in an Awareness Day activity hosted by the Students of an Accessible Society organization. To participate in this activity, Chancellor Connor completed his daily tasks on campus while using a wheelchair in order to have a better understanding of the struggles faced by the university’s mobility restricted students.[2] The experience identified numerous accessibility problems throughout campus including building access, water fountain height, and restroom layout and design.[3] The identification of these problems immediately sparked actions towards reform. By the week of October 23rd, public telephones had been lowered, and a new ramp was constructed into Hyer Hall.[4] In November, disabled students found more inclusion in sports and activities with the introduction of wheelchair basketball.[5] Finally, by December, the university was granted a budget of $148,000 dollars to make buildings more accessible.[6]

The program on October 7th sparked an initial round of reform, but many improvements have enhanced Whitewater’s accessibility in the years since. It is that continued dedication that has allowed UW-Whitewater to become one of the most accessible campuses in the nation.

Johnson. “In keeping with more accessibility for handicaps on campus, a back door ramp trading to another inside ramp receives much use in Shalom. Pictured from left to right are David Shaefer, Trisha Cox and Lisa Blatt.” in the Royal Purple (Whitewater: University of   Wisconsin – Whitewater, December 4, 1974), 5.

[1] Craig Schreiner, “UW-Whitewater a top-5 mobility-friendly campus in the nation,” last modified January 21, 2021, https://www.uww.edu/news/archive/2021-01-wheelchair-friendly-campus

[2] Marge Ernst, “Problems roll in Awareness Day,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.) Oct. 9, 1974.

[3] “Experience Not Easy Connor’s Wheelchair,” Whitewater Register (Whitewater, WI.) Oct. 10, 1974.

[4] “Awareness? Yes!” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.) Oct. 23, 1974.

[5] “Handicapped eye ‘cage’ fame,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.) Nov. 13, 1974.

[6] Marge Ernst, “Inzeo Relates Energy Idea,” Royal Purple (Whitewater, WI.) Dec. 4, 1974.

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