Erin Gleim

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government officials are in the process of institutionalizing Safe Ride at UT, but the program must become easier for students with disabilities to use, SG President Kori Rady said.

Safe Ride uses uRide, an Austin-based car service startup, to pick up students from the downtown area and drop them off in West Campus or East Riverside. Safe Ride operates between 11:59 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Thursday–Saturday at no charge for students.

Rady said the program, which is in its pilot year, has reached almost 4,000 people since its implementation in September 2014.

Rady said Safe Ride primarily did not have ADA-accessible cars at the outset because of a lack of resources to fund ADA-accessible cars in full.

“It’s definitely difficult to see a program like Safe Ride, when it’s starting out, having [an ADA] car [available] — it obviously costs more,” Rady said. “It’s going to be a required aspect.”

Safe Ride’s funding doubled from $26,000 in the fall semester, to a $52,000 budget this spring. A portion of that money funds the use uRide vehicles: eight Thursday nights and 10 both Friday and Saturday nights, according to Rady.

In order to make vehicles more ADA accessible, more funding will be required, said Erin Gleim, SG assistant agency director for Students with Disabilities.

“Funding has been requested to make [Safe Ride] accessible or more accessible,” Gleim said.

The cost or method of implementation has not been agreed upon yet, according to Gleim. However, Rady said he has reached out to groups for donations to ensure the program’s longevity.

Making Safe Ride more ADA accessible might mean mobilizing a University vehicle for the program or paying to use an already accessible vehicle, Gleim said.

“There’s kind of different options they’re looking into,” Gleim said. “It’s a big program, so it’s a lot of different things to pull in.”

Rady said he thinks the program has been well-received, and he said he has not heard complaints regarding a lack of accessibility.

“Plenty of students have had an incredible response to it, and, with the hopeful institutionalizing of the program, we’ll be able to fully encompass everyone and every UT student, including those with the ADA aspects,” Rady said.

Dylan Murray, a biology junior who uses a wheelchair, said he has not personally used Safe Ride, but he said he could see it being a problem for other students with disabilities.

“I’ve been in instances where I’ll go to do something, and I’ll get there and can’t,” Murray said. “They definitely should have [made it more accessible] before they initiated [the program].”

Correction: This story has been edited significantly since its original publication. The Safe Ride program requires that students with disabilities give advance notification that they need a ride, and therefore does comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the original article, Student Government President Kori Rady stated that Safe Ride was not yet ADA compliant.

Erin Gleim, Students with Disabilities agency director, speaks at a Student Government meeting in the SAC on Tuesday evening.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government members considered a resolution Thursday for the creation of an adaptive sports and recreation program, an initiative that would allow for more team-based recreational opportunities for students with mobility issues or visual impairments. The program’s purpose is to better include students with disabilities in activities on campus.

In the resolution, Erin Gleim, Students with Disabilities agency director, wrote that the initiative is part of an effort to expand and “provide resources for the overall health and wellness of all students and staff.”

The program is still in its early stages of development, according to Kelli Bradley, director of Services for Students with Disabilities. The initiative could be in place as soon as this fall,
Gleim said.

For the 2014-2015 school year, 2,289 students are registered with Services for Students with Disabilities. 

 “At this time, we are still assessing the needs, logistics, and interest [of students],” Bradley said in an email.

Gleim said an adaptive sports program could potentially be incorporated into TeXercise, an exercise program that allows students to take fitness classes at the University. It might also exist as an independent program, and include activities such as adaptive wheelchair rugby or basketball, for the disabled community.

The resolution is a joint project between Student Government, the Division of Recreational Sports, Services for Students with Disabilities and University Health Services. Jennifer Speer, associate director of Communications, Assessment & Development in the Division of Recreational Sports, said RecSports has been in contact with Gleim to plan details of the program.

“We want to make sure we provide recreational opportunities for everyone on campus,” Speer said. “If we are able to provide a service for students that is needed in this specific population, then that would be very beneficial.”

Speer said the University offered similar projects in the past, but the programs disbanded because of low attendance.

“Interest with students kind of diminished,” Speer said. “We would work with St. David’s to have them come over and use the space for their basketball [and] wheelchair rugby programs.”

Other universities, such as Texas A&M, University of Houston and UT-Arlington, have adaptive sports programs. In A&M’s student organization Aggie Adaptive Sports, students host recreational events for those with physical disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs. Tracey Forman, advisor for Aggie Adaptive Sports, said the program is still small because of a smaller community of people with disabilities in College Station.  

“Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio — they have enough people in their community; they have centers,” Forman said. “Ours is very recrational, noncompetitive at this point. [Our members] would love
to get more people involved.”

Gleim said she hopes to look at other universities’ programs to help mold UT’s adaptive program. 

“It will be a big program and undertaking,” Gleim said. “We’re just in the planning stages right now, but we’ve been given the green light, so we’re going for it.”

SG plans to vote on the resolution next week, Gleim said.