Making change together

MizzouRec collaborates with the Mizzou Disability Coalition to make the student recreation complex more accessible.

Sophia Martino
Mizzou Disability Coalition President Sophia Martino. “Students’ opinions matter,” she said. “The space is there for us, so we can make the space what we want it to be.” Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

By Jesse Berlin

This is Part 2 of a multi-part story. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 3 here.

MizzouRec is acting on students’ recommendations to make the facility more attractive to students with disabilities.

“MizzouRec is a facility for all students, with disabilities and without, so I think it’s very important that all of the campus community has the same accessibility,” said senior Mckenzie Knapp, a member of the Mizzou Disability Coalition (MDC).

MDC aims to educate people about disability and advocate for greater accessibility in campus spaces. The group is one of several whose input has been sought by MizzouRec Director Stephen Byrd, who’s making changes to the facility to make it more inclusive.

MDC’s president, senior Sophia Martino, uses a wheelchair. She first visited MizzouRec her freshmen year. “No one else looked like me while I was in there,” she said. “I didn’t want people to look at me while I was working out.”

She and Knapp suggested having more images of students with disabilities displayed throughout the facility and in MizzouRec’s marketing materials. New photos of Martino using fitness equipment will be among the new artwork MizzouRec is adding.

“To see a reflection of yourself in a space that you’re in always makes someone feel more invited,” said Knapp, who’s hard of hearing. “Pushing [the idea] that the Rec is for everybody will be a great step.”

Martino and Knapp recommended making fitness equipment accessible for students with disabilities. For example, staff could learn to remove seats from seated cable row machines to make them accessible for wheelchair users. Likewise, staff could learn to operate the pool lifts, so wheelchair users feel more comfortable using the aquatic facilities.

The students also noted that fitness equipment had been spread apart because of the pandemic. They recommended keeping the additional space between equipment, so students with disabilities could move about the facility more easily. They also suggested placing more signs around the facility and making them larger, so students with visual disabilities could more easily find what they’re looking for.

Knapp said MizzouRec is on the right track by listening to and collaborating with students. “Students’ opinions matter,” she said. “The space is there for us, so we can make the space what we want it to be.”

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