North Texas Daily

Students who are blind find campus accommodations

Students who are blind find campus accommodations

Nikki Lyssy is an English Major that is interested in creative writing. She appreciates how the dining hall staff lets her know of the menu options she has everytime she visits.

Students who are blind find campus accommodations
March 29
00:08 2018

Daily tasks like walking to and from class or stopping by a dining hall to grab breakfast might seem mundane for some, but for others, it’s no walk in the park.

The Office of Disability Accommodation provides plenty of services to students with disabilities, but the rest of the university has to improvise with its solutions.

UNT dining halls make an effort to help blind students navigate food lines and the cafeterias as a whole. Advertising senior Allison Hughes has been working in Bruce cafeteria for three years and frequently helps blind students.

“If you think about it, it’s just common human decency,” Hughes said.

She will typically take the student by the arm and walk through the line with them. She will tell them what food is being served, sometimes even leading them to a table and getting their food for them. She also tries to sit students near the exit and tells them where it is so they can leave whenever they want.

Hughes said Bruce has no official policy for disability accommodation, they simply offer help to students with disabilities.

“We do the same thing with someone who’s on crutches,” Hughes said.

However, when linguistics junior Ethan Ligon lived at Bruce during his freshman year, this was not the case.

He did not eat in the dining halls very much while he lived on campus, mainly because he found it difficult to navigate the large space. It was also challenging to know which lines led to which food, especially because the menus changed daily. Ligon especially had trouble finding somewhere to sit when he was by himself.

“It’s hard to find a seat when you can see where you’re looking, right?” Ligon said. “It’s even harder to do it when you can’t.”

Now that he lives off campus, he does not see much reason to go to the dining halls. However, because people have been telling him for the past few years he needs to try West Wednesdays, he may have a reason to eat on campus again.

“It could be on my bucket list before I graduate because I’ve been hearing about it for so long,” Ligon said.

English junior Nikki Lyssy still lives on campus with her identical twin sister. The sisters are blind and gluten-free, so she was initially worried about how they would be accommodated. But eventually they found themselves getting to know the staffs of different dining halls through all of the help they received.

“All of the dining hall staff are truly some of the best people I’ve ever come across in my life,” Lyssy said.

Even though they have had different experiences in the dining halls, Ligon and Lyssy feel their needs have been accommodated on campus.

Because his father is the Associate Dean of the College of Visual Arts and Design, Ligon lived on campus while he was in high school. This was part of a program that allowed faculty members to live on campus for two years.

The Ligons lived in Honors Hall for three years so that Ethan could finish high school without having to move.

“When I first got here [as a student], I was pretty much set because I already basically knew where everything was,” Ligon said.

Ligon is also on the advisory committee for the ODA and has interned there, so he knows most accommodation issues can be fixed.

However, there are still a few issues that cannot be fixed. There is constant construction near campus, but Ligon has accepted it as part of the environment.

“I’ve always said you can’t spell construction without ‘u,’ ‘n’ or ‘t’ because it’s true,” Ligon said.

However, some problems have been fixed. For example, the elevator in the Life Science Building did not make noise, so Ligon would often find himself getting off on the wrong floor. He told the ODA, and they found someone who could fix it.

Ligon also mentions the Union as being easier to navigate than the cafeterias because it contains several smaller rooms instead of one large space. However, there are still some things that could be improved.

“Overall, the Union’s been pretty good,” Ligon said. “I still think it feels like a UNT-themed mall, but it is pretty accessible overall. Except for the touchscreen kiosks. Those are totally useless to me.”

While he usually has to wait at the counter until someone comes to take his order, Ligon has talked to the advisory committee about this, but they have not yet reached a solution.

Lyssy said her needs are usually accommodated, and — much to her surprise — she has not had trouble finding gluten-free food.

For her, the support she gets doesn’t just stop when she walks out those cafeteria doors. She has also maintained a good relationship with the bus drivers who regularly help her get around campus.

“I feel like everybody I’ve worked with here has just wanted to see me excel and do really well,” Lyssy said. “And as a result, it pushes me to do my best to give back what this university has given to me.”

Lyssy never feels like a burden to the university as a result of these positive interactions with staff members. In fact, she feels as though she is never at a disadvantage on campus.

“I have been so, so fortunate with how accommodating UNT has been,” Lyssy said. “They make it so that I can be a student just like everybody else and can achieve the same things as everybody else.”

Featured Image: Nikki Lyssy is an English major who is interested in creative writing. She appreciates how dining hall staff lets her know of the menu options she has every time she visits. Josh Jamison

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Camila Gonzalez

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