UF was nationally ranked for its inclusion of disabled students for the first time.
UF is ranked as No. 6 in a “Top 10 Campuses for Students with Physical Disabilities,” list, which was published March 1 in College Magazine, an online magazine for students.
“It’s great to have UF and the DRC recognized for commitment to advancing access and inclusion for all students,” said Gerardo Altamirano, the assistant dean and director of the Disability Resource Center. “We are hopeful future Gators with disabilities will learn there is a place for them.”
This is the first time the center has been ranked, Altamirano said.
Universities across the country were ranked using criteria such as accessibility in classrooms and dorms as well as how they raise awareness for inclusion, according to College Magazine.
Other schools that were ranked include the University of Missouri at No. 9, University of California Berkeley at No. 5 and Ball State University at No.1, according to the report.
Partnering with the UF Division of Student Affairs, Housing and Residence Education and Recreational Sports helped increase the ranking, Altamirano said.
Cypress Hall is one of the establishments that got College Magazine’s attention, Altamirano said. The dorm hall was specially made to provide a living space for disabilities.
The university spent about $380,000 to advance rooms and equipment in Cypress Hall, such as easily accessible ramps and automatic doors, Altamirano said.
He says he believes the center was also recognized for provisions of services that are not available at other institutions, such as its orientations and transition programming.
The center ensures that classrooms, facilities and transportation services are easily accessible for students who live with mobility impairments, Altamirano said.
“To be recognized for the work that we do every day is impactful,” said Jenna Gonzalez, the DRC associate director. “The commitment to excellence, access and inclusion is a factor.”
More than 3,000 students are registered with the center, Gonzalez said.
UF brought Delta Alpha Pi, a national honor society to campus that recognizes disabled students and their academic achievements, in 2018, Altamirano said. It has about 40 members.
Carissa Madden, a 31-year-old UF education master’s student and vice president of Delta Alpha Pi, was diagnosed with autism in 1992. She said the DRC has been nothing but supportive toward her, and she is glad it has received national recognition.
“It lifts my spirits how the DRC and UF believed in me,” Madden said. “With their support, anyone can accomplish anything.”