UI restrooms to have sharps containers

BY JON FRANK | MAY 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa sophomore Zach Elsbecker was diagnosed with type I diabetes just after his eighth grade year.

To regulate his blood sugar, the 20-year-old uses an insulin pump, but sometimes, he needs to use syringes to maintain his sugar levels.

But the English major lives in Coralville, so it's important to have access to proper disposal units on campus in case he can't make it home to throw away used needles.

And come fall, Elsbecker will have that option. In July, the UI will install needle-deposit bins in restrooms across campus.

"It's pretty convenient just to be able to get rid of [the syringe] at any location," Elsbecker said.

Some buildings on campus — including the Main Library and the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center — have restrooms with the appropriate sharps-disposal containers. But following the project's completion, all UI general-education buildings will contain at least one Sharps container in a men's and women's restroom.

More than a year ago, students from Student Disabilities Services pitched the idea for installing containers at a UI Student Government meeting. In February, Student Disabilities Services introduced the plan to Facilities Management.

Facilities Management will now foot the $9,000 bill for purchasing and installing the containers.

Facilities Management officials estimated they would install receptacles in more than 75 campus buildings. Buildings with more than 20 restrooms will receive four containers and buildings with fewer than 20 restrooms will receive two containers, totaling 200 bins across campus.

"We look at this as increasing safety," said Brian Manternach, a Facilities Management engineer who, with a team of students, spearheaded the implementation of sharps containers on campus.

Manternach said he has heard reports from UI custodians of needles mixed in with other waste in trash cans on campus, and he hopes easy access to disposal containers will curb unsafe practices.

Officials hope the containers will also foster a more accommodating, welcoming environment for visitors, students, and faculty members with disabilities, Manternach said.

"It's an important step in the right direction," said Christina Roth, the founder and president of the College Diabetes Network. "[It's great] to be able to get these schools to realize these students have health needs that aren't being met."

Roth said of the 11 schools with which the College Diabetes Network communicates, Iowa is "ahead of the game" on making accommodations for diabetic students.

Ryan Bruner, a co-head of Student Disabilities Services, said installing the containers was the organization's main objective this semester. The group has pledged to contribute $450 to the project.

He said it's an important step toward acknowledging and helping students with disabilities many other UI students and faculty members may not recognize.

"It's a safety thing, and it's something that we've looked at and seen it as a need," he said. "It'll make school life here at Iowa a lot easier for students and definitely more accommodating."

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