Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity Committee

F&S' Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed in February 2015 as a part of a campus-wide effort to engage all individuals on the Urbana campus in discussion about diversity and inclusion. [Read More]

Action Plan

The Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan is the next step in identifying how F&S becomes a better service provider to campus by reinforcing the organization’s core values.[Read More]

Feature Story

Group rises to the occasion to help disabled students

F&S elevator mechanics, Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES), and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) received the 2016 Larine Y. Cowan Excellence in Access and Accommodations award sponsored by the University of Illinois Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access.

Coleman Award WinnerThe group was nominated by DRES Director Pat Malik for their Wireless Elevator Remote Control (WERC) project.

“I thought it was remarkable that three very different units could come together and do something like this,” Malik said.

The project was initiated in 2007 when former elevator foreman Jeff Miller noted that many students with severe physical disabilities were unable to independently access the buttons within an elevator due to reasons such as the elevator being too small for a wheelchair to turnaround or the student not having the reach or dexterity to utilize the controls.

The WERC project design was twofold. First, ECE worked with the elevator mechanics to create an antenna that could interact with the various electrical configurations found in lifts. Then the department had to design the call boxes.

Fitting an elevator with wireless controls begins when Malik identifies a building as one a disabled student needs to access. Next, she submits a work order to the Elevator Shop, which places an antenna on the lift to allow a WERC to interact with the elevator’s internal controls.

While that’s happening, a disability specialist at Beckwith Residential Support Services works with the student to determine what type of call box would work best for him or her. ECE then creates a remote control with the necessary individual features, which can range from simple buttons to voice activation. The original plans called for the elevators to be controlled with a mobile device application, but the group found out that someone else already had a patent on such an application.

Currently there are 31 campus elevators which are accessible for those who need to use a remote control call box. More will be added as the need arises or funding is available.

“We have a really good team of people,” Malik said. “We’ve had our bumps and bruises, but we figured things out together as a team. And everyone who worked on this project did so above and beyond their normal job responsibilities.”