Student graduates with help of accessibility changes at Western Technical College

You may have noticed a lot of construction around Western Technical College. The passage of a major referendum has allowed the college to make upgrades to campus buildings, especially when it comes to accessibility. It’s something one Western student says made all the difference in her college experience.

News 8 first introduced you to Andrea Clark two years ago as she was preparing to move into the dorms at Western Technical College for the first time. Now she will be graduating this year and said she couldn’t have done it without the support of her family and the people who helped make it happen at Western.

Clark is living her college dream, working two part-time jobs, taking 16 credits and living on her own.

“It’s cool to have that independence and go around campus,” said Clark.

But she admits, she was a little nervous venturing out on her own because she was born with cerebral palsy, which is a neurological disorder that affects her arms and legs.

“Any change for me is a big deal, so transitioning out of my childhood home was a really big deal for me and I think there was some trepidation on mine and my parents’ part about not knowing how everything would work out,” said Clark.

However, with Andrea’s positive attitude and Western Technical College’s disability services, Andrea will graduate in April.

“The services I have gotten here at Western, both in the hall and disability services, makes the transition a lot easier knowing that I have people to back me up,” said Clark.

“All colleges offer some amount of disability services, but Western’s developed a really good culture that everyone is involved with students of all kinds and so supporting students with disabilities isn’t really all that different,” said Kristina Stellpflug, a disability services specialist at Western Technical College.

Over the past several months, Western has been upgrading its campus to make it more accessible.

“They just removed curbs in some places, removed steps in places, so that’s nice, and a lot of automatic openers to bathrooms and to buildings,” said Stellpflug.

The maintenance staff in Clark’s dorm even put in an automatic system for her because they noticed how hard it was for her get into her room.

“The fact that people notice that and are willing to go above and beyond to make a student on their campus have a perfect experience in college kind of made me feel like people are finally understanding my message of ‘we want to go through life as if there are no limits to our abilities,'” said Clark.

Although Clark won’t be around to see all of the changes around campus, she is still appreciative of the effort.

“I am grateful for them to actually take into account our population,” said Clark.

She hopes other students follow in her path.

“You don’t know until you try it. It may be scary at first and then you might love it; it’s all about perspective and the way you look at things,” said Clark.

Clark will be graduating with a human services degree and gerontology certificate with hopes of becoming a family advocate for people with disabilities.

“I have always told people not to dwell on your limits; it’s about your abilities,” said Clark.