ADA Legacy Tour highlights UNCG program
On May 3, 2015, the American Disabilities Association Legacy Bus pulled up to UNCG. Emblazoned with the US flag and the slogan “The Road to Freedom,” the bus is traveling the country to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The tour underscores the historical importance of the act in empowering people with disabilities and highlights areas where we, as a nation, must continue to overcome obstacles and challenges.
Why was UNCG one of three ADA Legacy Tour stops in North Carolina? Because UNCG’s Beyond Academics program addresses one of the “final frontiers” of access – postsecondary education for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID).
“We are grateful that UNCG can be a part of an educational effort that seeks to transform attitudes about embracing differences as a means to ensuring a more just community,” acting chancellor Dana Dunn noted during her welcome speech to university staff, students, government officials, and community visitors.
The two day visit included food trucks, festivities, giveaways, and a flashmob that was met with enthusiastic participation from UNCG’s own Beyond Academics students.
“There’s still a mindset that people with ID need to be taken care of instead of promoting people with ID as being contributing members of society,” says Beyond Academics Executive Director Joan Johnson.
States mandate that individuals with ID receive elementary and secondary education, but afterwards, these individuals have few options. The skills they need to access employment and to live independent lives are typically acquired during postsecondary education. That’s where empowering programs like UNCG’s Beyond Academics come in.
Beyond Academics is a certificate program for individuals with ID that emphasizes higher education, self-determination, community inclusion, career development, and independent living. The Beyond Academics Integrative Community Studies curriculum offers students access to various courses across all UNCG majors, and a typical program of study depends on a student’s specific interests and skills. All students direct and define their own path.
“Historically, people with ID were not in the driver’s seat,” explains Eric Marshburn, Director of Admissions for Beyond Academics. “There’s a big difference in what these programs and Beyond Academics are doing.”
UNCG’s Beyond Academics offers the only four-year certificate program in North Carolina for individuals with ID. The program emerged in 2007 through partnerships with community activists, service providers, state agencies, and adults with ID.
The Beyond Academics journey to the “final frontier” of post-secondary education has its roots in the Higher Education Act of 1965. The act solidified the government’s monetary involvement with universities (this relationship is known today as FAFSA). Congress then amended the Act in 2008 to encourage universities, colleges, and community colleges to improve education for students with ID.
On July 1st, 2014, Beyond Academics received a U.S. Department of Education designation as a Comprehensive Transition Program. CTP programs offer a structured curriculum, credit-bearing courses, and – importantly – federal student aid. UNCG is one of only 36 institutions in the nation to have this designation.
“Looking back at our nation’s growth, postsecondary education access has expanded during the past 25 years,” says Marshburn. “However, universities must address and meet the growing demand for students specifically with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
In welcoming the ADA Legacy Tour to Greensboro, acting chancellor Dana Dunn affirmed UNCG’s commitment to meeting those demands. “We must question our progress, never resting on our momentary and sustained accomplishments, so that we are authentic with our core values…Our dedication to education, meaningful discussion, and shared-solution focused, problem solving will keep us moving forward.”
Article author Christina Blankenship is a Media and Communication Intern with the UNCG Office of Research and Economic Development. She explores and writes articles about the on and off campus impacts of UNCG research. Christina is currently pursing a masters in communication studies at UNCG. Her interests in communication, media, and design led her to her current position.