Blind Advocate partners with U of M

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WRITTEN BY Micah Walker For The Press & Guide, published on 

Blind student with faculty member at U of M Dearborn Photo credit Micah Walker

When transferring to a new college, most students spend their first semester learning their way around the campus, becoming familiar with their classes and professors, and making new friends. For Khodr Farhat, his experience was similar, but with one huge difference: he wasn’t able to see any of it.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn student and self-advocate is visually impaired. But Farhat hasn’t let his disability stop him from making a difference in the campus community.

Farhat partnered with U of M-D to bring awareness to incorrect braille signage in several buildings on campus. As a result, the university has launched a multi-year project to update signs in all 33 buildings, which will include classroom, restroom, and corridor signage, said Keisha Blevins, the university’s human resources director. The project is a collaboration between Counseling and Disability Services, the Office of Facilities Planning, and the Office of Human Resources and Institutional Equity.

Farhat took on his latest endeavor in August, as he began preparing to transfer from Henry Ford College to U of M-D. While taking a tour of the campus, he noticed a braille sign inside the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters was incorrect.

After checking a second time to make sure the sign did not have the proper braille formatting, Farhat reported his findings to Judith Walker, the coordinator of Disability Services. Since then, the two have been working together to bring new signage on campus.

“We were happy that Khodr brought this to our attention, and the university has been really welcoming to him and willing to make those changes,” Walker said.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, braille is a series of raised dots that can form various letters, punctuation marks, and numbers. The symbols used in the code system are created using braille cells. Six dots make up a braille cell, with three dots aligned in two rows.

Braille signs are a requirement in public facilities under the American with Disabilities Act. According to the ADA website, rooms and spaces that serve the same purpose for long periods of time, such as entrances, exits, and restrooms, are expected to have accessible signs. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design was last updated in 2010, where federal building codes began to match state and local codes.

In November, Walker met with the Office of Facilities Planning, where they confirmed many of the braille signs were not in the proper format. Soon after, the university decided to update their signage, which will be carried out in two phases, Farhat said.

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