Disability Center icon Jake Karnes to retire



By Nicole Tarpoff

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The first director of UK’s Disability Resource Center, Jake Karnes, will retire at the end of June after 44 years of service.

“They say you know when it’s time, and I’ve decided it’s time,” Karnes said.

Karnes became the director fresh out of college—the university had just founded Disability Resource Center, and Karnes told his interviewers that he knew little about disabilities or the role he was applying for. They chose Karnes anyway, saying he knew what it was like to be a UK student, and that mattered more than anything.

Since that first day, Karnes has become an icon of the center by creating more accessible bathrooms, more curb cuts for wheelchairs and a number of behind-the-scene policy changes.

“If you would’ve asked me after I’d been here seven or eight years what I’d like to see happen on this campus to make it physically more accessible in my lifetime, I saw it happen in five or six years,” said Karnes.

When Karnes started there weren’t many students with disabilities, and most of the disabilities on-campus were physical in nature. Now that several laws have been put in place that support their goals, the center now works with a larger number of students with a greater variety of handicaps.

Karnes is confident that his retirement will not have any sort of negative impact on the center. He believes the center will continue to grow and his successor’s fresh ideas will help to propel it forward.

“Jake treated everyone with respect and reciprocally was very well respected by many of the students and university employees. That respect is difficult to earn and his leaving will certainly impact how we interact with our stakeholders,” the center’s new director, David Beach, said.

Karnes said would love to see the center become more modernized, and he hopes that the center always does the maximum amount possible for their students.

The office has moved from Alumni Gym to the Multidisciplinary Building on the corner of Rose Street and Huguelet Drive; the Multidisciplinary Building has many more testing rooms where students can take exams free from distraction.

According to Karnes, ongoing contact with students and working with faculty has been his favorite part about working at the center.