UA's disabled becoming abler

By Michelle Roberts

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Legend" who's also

known as "The Miller

Man" sits in his wheelchair, wearing a polo shirt, tan slacks and tan Converse hightops. His head rolls slightly as he talks and an occasional smile emerges.

Both of Gregory Miller's nicknames were given to him by VanTran drivers. Being a student at the University of Arizona for 15 years has made him "The Legend," and his second nickname is based on both the brewing company's commercials and his last name.

Miller has had a visual impairment and has been in a wheelchair since birth. But that hasn't stopped him from getting a bachelor's degree in Spanish and a master's degree in education.

The unclassified graduate student says a lot of changes have occurred at the university since he's been here.

"The most significant change is that attitudes have changed affirmatively. There's more and more merging disabled with the abled student body," he says. "That has come from having to do it by law, not voluntarily."

Miller travels from class to class on campus by soliciting help from people passing by.

"I use my thumb," he says, laughing. "It's very easy to get around if you learn the traffic patterns of students. People will gladly give you a push."

He says it's easiest to get from the Student Union to the Social Sciences building, because a lot of students travel in that direction.

"You develop a knack to (ask for help) without being obnoxious. It's a good knack to have," he says.

In the evening, he says, he's more likely to get stranded, but he just waits and usually someone comes along and helps him. He says he never waits more than about 10 or 15 minutes and that he's learned to just be patient.

Miller says his dream is to hold a job with a decent degree.

"My biggest joy is to work with (English as a Second Language students). What I found in my teaching is that foreign nationals treat persons with disabilities with high respect and don't treat them critically. I think they're more respectful of people. They're taught to be more respectful," Miller says.

He says he would like to get a job as an assistant in a language lab, working with ESL students. He says he is unable to get a job in this area right now, because the Center for English as a Second Language building does not have wheelchair access.

Construction on an elevator and several bathrooms in the CESL building should begin around late August or early September, says Edward Murray, associate director of UA Facilities Design and Construction.

The work will done as part of the university's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Kent Kloepping, director of the Center for Disability Related Resources, says that under the act, the university must ensure that all students have reasonable access to programs and services.

However, he also says that the law does not specifically tell institutions how to go about complying. Kloepping says that if people cannot participate in a program or get access to a service, institutions must provide access either by moving a program or by modifying the building to allow access.

Areas in the stadium and in the McKale Center were modified to make more handicapped seating available, according to Murray. He says there have also been numerous restroom modifications.

Reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure equal access to employment, educational opportunities, programs, services and activities in an integrated setting, according to the university's interim policy for nondiscrimination on the basis of disability.

"I don't think it's (the university) drug its feet. It has a lot of issues from a funding standpoint. It becomes a matter of practicality, of getting the work done in a period of time. I think the university has been responsive. They've done millions of dollars of work," Kloepping says.

He says ADA is basically a civil rights law, and that the university must just ensure reasonable access.

"What constitutes equal treatment for a disabled person is not written in stone like the Ten Commandments," says Kloepping, who is in a wheelchair. "Throughout the institution there have been major commitments of money. Whether that's enough, I don't know."

Cheryl Fogle, a journalism sophomore who is blind, says the services offered by the university work if disabled students take the responsibility.

"If you need a book taped, you need to tell them and keep calling. They're helpful if you know what you want. You can't just wait for things to be done," Fogle says.

Getting services can take some time, Fogle says, but that's only because employees and volunteers have so much to do.

Miller says that if he could change services offered at the UA, he would improve stenographic and word processing services. He says he would also like to see an improvement in library research services, especially assistance in pulling material off the shelves.

The biggest challenge Miller faces, he says, is "communicating without appearing to be waving a red flag. The most challenging thing is to keep a balanced treatment, making them aware of your adaptations without wearing them on your sleeve. Having conferences with professors and making adjustments, but trying to keep your handicap quiet."

He takes his exams by taking the test home, putting his answer on tape and then having someone transcribe his answer. Miller says it takes him about a week to finish an exam.

Miller gets his notes through the note-taking service offered through the Center for Disability Related Resources. A student who is already in his class takes notes and then makes copies for him.

Despite his disabilities, he doesn't have many frustrations, he says.

"If I could see one thing, it would be beautiful art in color," he says. "I have 20/200 vision, but I'd like to be able to see art in full view."

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