FAIRBORN — Wright State University is ranked third in the nation for its wheelchair-friendly features and accessibility by New Mobility magazine and the United Spinal Association.
The magazine’s Wheels on Campus guide to wheelchair-friendly higher education ranked the country’s Top 20 institutions.
“I was pretty ecstatic in learning that we were in the top three,” said Thomas Webb, director of disability services and Wright State’s coordinator of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “We’re in really good company when we look at the other universities that are listed there.”
New Mobility magazine, which informs wheelchair users about lifestyle issues, is the membership publication of the United Spinal Association, a nonprofit disability rights and veterans service organization.
The magazine’s Wheels on Campus guide helps students who use wheelchairs make informed decisions on choosing a college or university. The magazine said physical access is critical to the full range of college experience, even in the age of remote learning, and that finding a campus that is 100% accessible is a rarity.
“Here are the pioneers and leaders that consistently offer a wide range of inclusive opportunities in a truly accessible setting,” the magazine wrote of the Top 10 schools.
The magazine sent survey emails to 400 colleges and universities and did in-person reporting at selected campuses, including Wright State.
“In terms of wheelchair accessibility, the campus is one of the best in the nation,” the magazine wrote of Wright State. “Universal design principles are present in the centralized main campus of 20 buildings, which are offset around a court of accessible walkways.”
Webb said that New Mobility magazine did a significant amount of research and legwork to produce the rankings. He said a representative from the magazine came to Wright State to meet with faculty, staff and students and tour the campus.
Wright State goes “beyond the legal minimum of accessibility by providing access underground,” the magazine wrote. “The tunnels, legendary among the Ohio disability community, are especially important to wheelchair users who need to get to classes and activities during occasional snowstorms.”
Webb said the ranking gives Wright State the opportunity to be recognized and celebrated for something it takes a lot of pride in, but is also humble about.
“When it comes to students with disabilities, it’s something we’ve excelled at since the 1970s,” he said. “What’s reflected in this ranking is that we have often gone above and beyond in what we provide our students with disabilities.”
Webb said that includes a personal attendant station that offers assistance and support to students with disabilities.
Webb said Wright State is looking to grow its adaptive recreation program and applied for a grant that would enable the purchase of four-wheel quadcycles that would give students with disabilities access to the wooded trails on campus.
Webb said New Mobility magazine has a broad reach and he believes the ranking will have more potential students, especially those outside of the region, taking a look at Wright State as a possible school to attend. He said it may also prompt other universities to seek out Wright State out as an expert in disability services.
Many of the other colleges ranked by the magazine are much larger than Wright State and have more resources.
“A lot of time it boils down to the people who are doing the work day to day and supporting the students,” said Webb. “It’s a good reflection on what they’ve been working on the past 15 to 20 years just to improve the services we have for students with disabilities.”