Traci Nathans-Kelly is exploring ways to engage senior-level engineering students to consult, brainstorm, design, draft and communicate projects in partnership with Cornell’s Student Disability Services (SDS). Since fall 2018, students in her Engineering Communication courses have been helping address mobility and access issues at Cornell, but the partnership with SDS and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance officers has been informal to date.
Moving forward, Nathans-Kelly is now working towards developing a community-engaged learning capstone that will be a standing part of her Engineering Communication sections. Knowing that some Cornell citizens are permanently disabled, but also realizing that everyone is disabled at some point in their lives, these projects address a public need that is grounded in law and ethical decision making. The team-based projects give students an authentic, deep partnership with a specific campus client. Student teams will bring their multidisciplinary skills to bear, and use their problem-solving skills coupled with universal design concepts to address accessibility issues on the Cornell campus and beyond. In return for their insights, the Cornell SDS/ADA officers will get a perpetual file of design and technology-based solutions to support their work to transform the Cornell campus into an equal-opportunity learning environment. Nathans-Kelly hopes that the work and future projects will grow beyond campus into the city and larger community.