Oluwaferanmi Okanlami has been appointed Director of Student Access and Housing Services. His appointment took place on July 1st.
In this role, Okanlami will oversee three key resources: Services for Students with Disabilities, the UM Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program, and the existing testing and accommodation centers.
The aim is to go beyond the mere provision of educational accommodation for students with disabilities towards a more holistic approach to student development, which at the same time increases the focus on accessibility and inclusion.
Okanlami has served as the interim director of SSD since July 1, 2020 and has also served as the director of the Adaptive Sports and Fitness Program since 2020 – a program housed within Student Life in association with Michigan Medicine.
Often referred to as “Dr. O ”, Okanlami will advocate advocacy efforts across the institution.
“Every student and community on our campus should have equal access to the resources they need to have an amazing experience at the University of Michigan,” said Okanlami. “This centralization of services is unique among campus communities and represents a significant advance in UM’s ability to provide better access to and support for our disabled student community.”
Under the leadership of Okanlami, SSD began last year to seize identified opportunities to improve its existing service offering and better serve the needs of students with disabilities.
Using information gathered through a needs assessment conducted by Rackham and recommendations from the Student IDEA Board, the SSD team removed barriers that previously made the process of connecting to the office and housing unnecessarily burdensome for students. Another focus of Okanlami was to increase the visibility of the disabled community, both at the university and nationally.
Okanlami, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Physical Medicine, and Rehabilitation, and Urology at the Medical School, is in a unique position to lead this effort. In 2013, during his third year as an intern in orthopedic surgery at Yale University, he suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down and his upper extremities restricted.
After several years of rehabilitation, he has seen firsthand the difference access to suitable accommodation can make in a learner’s life. He earned a master’s degree in engineering, science and technology entrepreneurship from the University of Notre Dame and completed a residency in family medicine in South Bend, Indiana.
While identifying as a proud wheelchair user, he has also regained some ability to walk using aids, some of which he designed and developed with a rehabilitation engineer. Okanlami suddenly experiences life “from the other side of the stethoscope,” as he calls it. ”
“I am pleased that Dr. Okanlami has agreed to lead SSD on a permanent basis, along with this broader focus on advocacy and improved access to support services and fitness activities, ”said Robert D. Ernst, vice president of student life for health and wellness and executive director of the university health service. “The passion and knowledge that Dr. Okanlami brings to this area will allow us to build on the fundamentals he helped create as interim director of SSD. “
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Martino Harmon, Vice President for Student Life at UM. “DR. Okanlami’s work at the University of Michigan has been instrumental in the progress we have made as an institution in enhancing the experiences of students and others with disabilities on our campus. “
“I look forward to continuing with Dr. Okanlami as he moves into his permanent position leading the services for students with disabilities, the test accommodation centers and the Adaptive Sports & Fitness program, ”said Christina Kline, associate director and ADA coordinator for UM’s institutional equity office.
“DR. O brings a passion and dedication to this work that has and will continue to have an impact on the university community. I look forward to supporting him and his vision of promoting an accessible and inclusive culture and community.”
– Susan Thwing contributed to this story.