October 15, 2011

Accessibility Pioneers: Tim Nugent

TIM NUGENT -Tim Nugent is an educator and coach whose work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has transformed how society has come to see, accept, and include people with disabilities. In 1948 he established the Division of Disability Resourses and Educational Services (DRES). The University of Illinois was the first post-secondary institution to provide such a support service program enabling students with disabilities to attend, and remains the only major U.S. university to have such an extensive program. It began as a response to the thousands of returning WWII veterans with spinal cord injuries, but all along non-veterans were also included in DRES. To achieve the goals of the program, Tim Nugent had to address many problems and challenges, everything from the physical inaccessibility of the campus and dorms, to opposition from facility. From the beginning, wheelchair sports, and in particular wheelchair basketball proved to be the key catalyst in overcoming barriers of all kinds: "architectural, manmade, attitudinal, psychological "1. This led to his founding of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (1949). More innovations continued when the University of Illinois became the first post-secondary institution to introduce curb cuts (1950). With help from the Engeneering Department he established the first ever fixed-route buses designed with wheelchair lifts (1952). The architectural accessibility standards that Tim Nugent developed for the campus were later adopted nationally (1961), and would eventually be incorporated into the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990).

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