The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Finding accessibility throughout SOTA

December 9, 2021


Cameron Nielsen

SOTA building at NKU.

There are currently 617 students registered with the Office of Student Accessibility which is housed on the third floor of the student union. OSA works to accommodate all students with disabilities on the campus and works closely with the School Of The Arts (SOTA) to ensure that everyone who registers with them is receiving the tools that they need in order to succeed.

Ron Shaw, associate director of SOTA said that the program is working toward being as accessible as they can because that is what their students deserve. Shaw said that he and the rest of the faculty also work closely with the students to provide them with the accommodations they need.

“We work very well with the students as to figuring out what they need to further their education,” Shaw said.

The theater program had previously cast an actor that used a wheelchair and worked closely with him to accommodate for ramps and costume design changes to allow for his performance on the main stage.

When casting for shows, the program will cast the best person for the show, traditionally white roles have been played by actors of color and actors that do have disabilities can play a role that they traditionally could not book before.

Inclusivity is something that SOTA is proud of and iis something that they instill in all of their programs, including theater. Shaw described what accessibility meant to him.

“No one is left out of the storyline and that everyone works together to make sure everybody gets a similar experience,” Shaw said.

Noah Warner, junior vocal major, has Grand Mal Epilepsy and said that he thinks NKU has a lot of work to do for accessibility, but that he has received the most care in accessibility from the students that he has worked with on productions. 

“Student stage management is probably the reason that I haven’t had another seizure on campus so far,” Warner said.

Warner is triggered by certain lighting effects and therefore must take it into consideration every time he is in a show.

During one show in particular, Warner recalls that high frequency lights had been brought in and were causing him to feel sick and student stage management wasted no time giving him a break and tending to his medical needs.

“I push myself a little further than I can because at the same time no one wants to be the sick kid. They kept ice packs in the freezer for me in case I overheated and knee braces because I have had knee issues in the past,” Warner says.

Ashlyn Duggan, senior BFA student, has made an effort to make many accommodations in the past for her friends and cast members.

 “We make it a point to ask the students what needs they have and what they prefer I have on me,” Duggan said.

Duggan also mentioned that she carries fidget toys for her cast members with anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder and tums for pre-show nerves.

“I always ask them what I can do to make them feel more comfortable to come to me and ask me,” Duggan said.  

Duggan mentioned she knows what it feels like to need support and not feel comfortable to go to anyone. She wants to be that person for others because she knows how stressful it is to advocate for yourself to a faculty member that you may not have a strong relationship with.

Shaw says that throughout his time at NKU, he has seen the office of student accessibility grow into a much bigger and extensive program that has provided its services to hundreds of students at one time. Shaw also mentioned that the OSA are always open to suggestions and concerns as to how they can improve the campus and the experiences of the students that attend.

OSA works with the campus architects to create a list of priority projects to ensure the campus buildings are updated and abide by the ADA requirements. They offer faculty training courses for accommodating ADA requirements and how to best support their students with disabilities. The campus also offers free therapy for students, but a student does not have to be registered with OSA to receive therapy.

NKU still has a ways to go in accessibility, but students and faculty agree that the campus and the theater program work hard to include every student. NKU doesn’t just stop inclusivity with students, the campus employs many people with physical and developmental disabilities and does not discriminate based on age or ethnicity.

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