In Pursuit of Being the Most Inclusive Latin American University
Publicado en: mar, 15 sep 2015 08:19:00 -0500

Becoming the first institution of higher education that complies with all accessibility requirements for people with disabilities is the goal that the University striving for through its UniNorte Inclusive Program.  This initiative is the product of an official agreement coming out of the European Lecture Series last March between UniNorte and the Once de España Foundation, known for its contributions in this area.

Uninorte Inclusiva is all about promoting accessible spaces for individuals with any type of disability and adapting current installations on campus, taking into account that every 6 out of 10 Colombians have some type of disability and higher education institutions are where a good portion of this population is developed professionally.  

¨The first part of this initiative is a psychosocial study that will allow us to know who our disabled population is, extending beyond our student body and into our administrative ranks, full-time and adjunct professors and their family members. We even want our visitors to feel that this campus is truly inclusive, ¨ explained the initiative manager, Paola Alcazar, UniNorte Extension director.

Because of this, the University has required the participation and support of the entire UniNorte community in filling out a survey to take a census of the number of employees and family members who have some type of disability, to garner enough information on accessibility, both on campus and in Barranquilla, to determine the major difficulties that affect the city, and then design policies to promote an inclusive university.  

For Tatiana Garcia Osorio, a first semester political science student, these types of initiatives demonstrate the interest of the University in wanting to change and be better.

For Tatiana, it is difficult to walk without support due to a hereditary motor neuropathy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome.  She describes that before coming to UniNorte, ¨I visited many universities, but this was the one that accepted me with open arms. They told me there would be people here to help me.¨

While Tatiana recognizes that the University is doing well in terms of ¨ levels of accessibility compared to the rest of the universities on the Coast, ¨ there is still room for improvement. ¨There is a lack of appropriate use of elevators on campus. There are people that go to the second floor by elevator (G Block) and they aren't disabled.   I think it´s even a healthy choice to make by taking the ramp or stairs.¨

At the same time the survey is being administered, Uninorte Incusiva will carry out the second part of the initiative, a complete diagnostic and study of the graduate building and library. According to Alcázar this consists of, ¨reviewing how accessible these two building are currently, what we have to work with, how to make it better and what we need to make these building 100% accessible.  

Tatiana Garcia considers that positive changes in matters regarding accessibility haven't stopped over the last two decades.  

According to professor Jaime Cotes, who entered as a student in 1995 until completing his undergraduate degree in Electric Engineering and then subsequent post-graduate studies, has been an adjunct professor in the Business and Engineering Department for eight years, says the University was ¨totally inaccessible¨ when he came for the first time. 

Cotes, who moves around in a wheelchair, was witness to construction projects such as the Coliseum, Café Du Nord, parking lots and ramps that follow all accessibility standards for people with disabilities.

¨At the turn of the century a strategic plan was drawn out where all of my suggestions and proposals were heard and it has been completed to perfection, accommodating to the variety of needs for disabled people, ¨ emphasized Cotes.  He also added that it´s necessary to carry out these types of projects alongside awareness raising campaigns to educate people who aren't disabled, as none of us are immune to the possibility of becoming a disabled person.  

The results of the survey from Uninorte Inclusiva, that are accessible here, will be presented to the academic community on September 17th