U.S. Education Secretary Praises U of I Disability Resources
The United States' top education official made a couple of stops in Illinois this week on a "Back to School" Bus Tour. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hopped off his school bus in Champaign Wednesday to highlight the disability resource program at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus.
After observing morning practice for the U of I's wheelchair basketbal teams, Duncan sat down to a roundtable discussion with several U of I to students who benefit from the university's disability resource program.
The panel included students like Meridith Bradford, a senior studying recreation sport and tourism. Bradford not only manages the men's wheelchair basketball team, but also is on the national ski team for Disabled Sports USA.
Bradford, who has cerebral palsy, lives in Beckwith Hall, a fully accessible dormitory, and receives help from student personal assistants. He says the resources available at Illinois through the DRES (Disability Resource and Educational Services) program has given him not only the independence to be academically successful, but also the accomodations to be involved with sports.
"Yes, I am an athlete," he said. "I train two days a week when I'm here year-round with the assistance of the rehab gym within DRES here at U of I. They've been amazing with me."
Secretary Duncan acknowledged the amount of resources it takes to equip a program like U of I's, but says he considers it the gold standard.
"It's an investment," he said. "Our young people need these kinds of things and our communities, our country need and deserve their talent.
Duncan says college-bound students with disabilities need to be more aware of the variety of accomodations available at colleges and universities, and committed to highlighting these programs within the Department of Education for the remainder of his tenure.