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Local universities accommodate students with disabilities

Valparaiso University transportation driver Mark Webber loads a wheelchair passenger onto a campus transport van with a lift in this 2017 file photo. 

File, The Times

VALPARAISO — The city's advisory Human Relations Council is hoping to facilitate some changes for residents who are disabled.

Julie Storbeck, an advocate for disabled residents, told the council Tuesday that while Valparaiso has made an effort to be welcoming to disabled people, more needs to be done.

“We want people to be more intentional and think more about it,” Storbeck said.

Residents “Mac” MacIntyre and Rachel Foreman, who use wheelchairs, told the council about some of the challenges they face with unusable sidewalks, inaccessible local businesses and unreliable public transportation.

“It's not because of a lack of compassion, but a lack of understanding,” Foreman said.

HRC member and Parks Director John Seibert said the city is following a 5- to 10-year Americans with Disabilities Act plan and is making changes as resources allow.

Storbeck wondered if some immediate changes could be made, such as asking business owners to shovel the snow and put salt on the sidewalks in front of their businesses. She also asked if people with disabilities could be appointed to serve on city boards and committees.

HRC Chair Heath Carter said the discussion had been “eye-opening.” The council talked about sharing the residents' comments with the city's Planning Department and connecting with the Chamber of Commerce.

“There are a number of processes we can set in motion to address these issues,” Carter said.

In other business:

  • Carter said he plans to introduce Maggie Clifton, the city's new director of community engagement, at an upcoming meeting.
  • Carter said the deadline to apply for a community cultural arts grant is March 15. The grants are open to any person, school or organization seeking to promote cultural education and inclusion.