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Accesible Cornell

This holiday season a sad story has turned into a glimmer of hope for students with disabilities at Cornell:

Eric Lawrence Ehrenberg '93 was a 19-year old junior in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences majoring in government and philosophy and was serving as the captain of the Cornell men's volleyball team when he developed a malignant tumor in the pituitary region of his brain during the 1990-91 academic year.

"He spent a year undergoing three brain surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and returned to Cornell after missing a year of school with vision in only half of one eye, with hearing aids in both ears and on complete hormone replacement therapy," his father said. "His return to Cornell was greatly facilitated by the support that he received from Joan Fisher, coordinator of disability services at Cornell, and the newly formed Access Alternatives student group that worked to improve the Cornell communities' understanding of the needs of students with disabilities at Cornell.

Unfortunately, Eric's tumor recurred a couple of years ago and he passed away this past summer, leaving behind a wife and two young children.

In his honor, two endowments have been created. One to award a graduating student who has overcome significant health problems during their time on East Hill, and the other to support a student organization that provides support to disabled student -- the Cornell Union for Disability Awareness. (CUDA)

For anybody interested in making a charitable contribution to Cornell this holiday season, a donation to the second endowment would certainly be something to consider. Information on the donation can be found in the aforementioned Cornell Chronicle article.

I myself currently face some mobility issues, and given my present situation I'm pretty much in awe of any person able to enroll at Cornell with a physical or mental disability, and appreciative of the support they can receive. I know that I will treasure my memories of being fully abled and walking up the Slope or strolling around Beebe Lake, and it's nice to see Cornell being able to make the effort to allow disabled students to enjoy everything that we enjoyed.

And for anybody interested, the Daily Sun had a great article on the purposes of the CUDA earlier this semester:

In addition to providing a forum, CUDA develops advocacy and awareness projects, a frequent focus being universal design. Universal design is when buildings or other facilities are planned so that everyone, disabled or not, can use them with ease.

[It] is based on the principle that the institutions and structures of everyday life buildings and walkways and websites for example are designed so as to be accessible to as many people as possible, with a wide range of individual abilities and preferences, said Lisa Adler 09, a member of CUDA.

CUDA's awareness initiatives seek to point out that initiatives such as universal design of buildings, websites and classroom instruction make these things more accessible to students with disabilities and also can make many aspects of daily life accessible to people who would not traditionally consider themselves to be "disabled, Adler said.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on December 02, 2008 (#)

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