Disability Resources and Educational Services – Illinois Advancement
Illini wheelchair basketball team huddled in a circle on the court.

2023 Update

Disability Resources and Educational Services

Celebrating the impact of your generosity

Thank you for your tremendous support of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES). Through your gifts, DRES facilitates programs for students with disabilities that can be formative and life changing. We award scholarships and fund entire programs from the contributions you provide. I am truly humbled by your generosity.

This year DRES celebrates 75 years of facilitating access for students with disabilities. I am reminded that Dr. Tim Nugent’s vision was for World War II veterans returning with injuries to have the same educational opportunities as their peers without disabilities. He understood the powerful impact of the full collegiate experience beyond the classroom, including student organizations and the positive effects of physical activity. We continue to work toward that vision and expand the resources available through DRES.

I would like to extend a warm welcome for you to join us during the DRES Student Awards Ceremony and our 75th Anniversary event to be held on April 19, 2024. Once again, thank you for your commitment to the work we are doing—you play an important role in the success of DRES.

Heather Stout
Signature Heather Stout
Director of Operations and Service

2023 By the Numbers

Thanks to your support during this past fiscal year, Disability Resources and Educational Services continues to be transformed, resulting in:

Icon$3,856,939 dollars raised

Icon160 donors

Icon213 gifts

Icon4,457 Students served

Icon858 Students accommodated in Testing Center

2023 Highlights

Your support has helped us continue to elevate the values that make Illinois distinctive: a sense of boundless aspiration, collaboration, and a global perspective.

Students using an accessible computer.

Donor Support Funds Groundbreaking Accessibility Technology

Master of Computer Science student Nanma Guru Purushotam is working with DRES to develop a digital helper called “Ala Aloha” for blind and low-vision individuals. The guide will assist people with navigating spaces using intelligent cameras, auditory cues and even touch-based feedback. The core of the system lies in AI’s ability to monitor the 3D environment in front of the user. By making knowledgeable decisions, it prevents them from colliding with overhead obstacles like tree branches or unexpected obstructions at torso level, such as dumpsters. Of her experience working with DRES, Purushotam said, “I’ve come to see firsthand just how crucial inclusivity is when we’re talking about technology, and I’ve been amazed at the sheer potential of AI to close existing gaps. It’s been quite the experience, blending these cutting-edge technologies with real-world challenges. Every day, I’m learning more about how to craft solutions that genuinely make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives. With each project, I’m reminded of the magic that happens when innovation meets a deep understanding of user needs.”

Illini wheelchair basketball team.

The "Band of Brothers" Legacy

Bonded by their experiences as members of the Illini wheelchair basketball team, 12 alumni were motivated to give back. Establishing the Wheelchair Basketball Alumni Legacy Scholarship Fund and pledging a multi-year donation, Mak Nong, one of the ‘brothers,’ said, “This scholarship is born from people who truly love each other and care about the future of the program at the University of Illinois.” The fund honors what money can’t capture: the enduring teachings from their coaches and tight teammate bonds that have carried far beyond their last plays on the basketball floor. For the alumni who funded this scholarship, it represents a continued commitment to growing the game of wheelchair basketball. Matt Buchi, head coach of the men’s wheelchair basketball team, was pleased and supportive of his former athletes’ commitment to future generations. “Our alumni need to think as soon as they graduate, how do I give back to the guys that are coming up next? Because there’s always going to be that next person who comes up and you want them to have the best experience possible,” Buchi said. Learn more about what inspired these alumni to give.

A collage of students supported by DRES scholarships.

Scholarships: An Investment in the Future

During the 2022-2023 academic year, DRES awarded more than $215,000 in scholarship awards to 75 students. With scholarship funds that support students with all types of visible and non-visible disabilities, the recipients of the awards in the past year represent high-achieving leaders from colleges across the entire campus. Joshua Steinfink, a B.S. student in Aerospace Engineering, received the Howard Findley Scholarship. Steinfink not only maintains memberships in several Illinois clubs and organizations, but he also volunteers at a local nursing home and led a local team for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Charity drive. Speaking of what the scholarship meant to him, Steinfink said, “This scholarship represents more than just financial assistance; it shows that others believe in my abilities and my potential—they have invested in my future. It is a reminder of the power of community and the importance that scholarships play in the success of others. I am incredibly grateful for the support and encouragement that comes with receiving this award.”

Continue Your Support

Your continued support ensures the College of Applied Health Sciences remains a place where progress and innovation can flourish. Find your passion and help us dream even bigger!

See Priorities

See More Impact

Philanthropy has benefited students, faculty, and staff in many ways. Browse the list below to learn more about how your impact can be felt across campus.

© 2023 University of Illinois Board of Trustees