Supporting Accessibility for All

villanova students on the level service break trip
Villanova students at a LEVEL service break trip

Each semester, more than 220 students visit the Office of Disability Services for assistance. Some are in wheelchairs, others have cystic fibrosis, hearing impairments, concussions or broken bones. They all go to ODS for help with test-taking or paper-writing, or to request a student volunteer to assist them in their daily routines.

For years, this all occurred in a cramped, overutilized office—one that not only served ODS students, but was also home to International Student Services.

Now, with a $1.25 million campaign gift, the space has undergone a much-needed expansion, including two new meeting rooms and a student lounge. In addition to funding the renovations, the gift will support ODS programs, including life skills development, entrepreneurship and service opportunities.

“The beauty of this whole gift is that we will now have space not only for technology and academic purposes, but also for the students to socialize,” said Stephen McWilliams, Director, Office of Disability Services and International Student Services.

The gift was named in memory of the Rev. Bill Atkinson, OSA, who at age 19 became a quadriplegic. After 40 years as a priest and teacher, Father Bill died in 2006 and is now being considered for canonization. Father Bill was directly involved with ODS, and his legacy continues to inspire Villanovans.

The anonymous campaign gift also designated $1.25 million for Villanova’s Learning Support Services, which helps students with learning disabilities. The gift has enabled LSS to hire a full-time learning specialist and to purchase software to streamline scheduling and communications between students, professors and Learning Support staff.

“This is an absolute gift that we never imagined,” says Nancy Mott, director of LSS. “It’s going to bring us light-years from where we are now.”