Taylor University is required to provide equal access to education for students with disabilities through accommodations according to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Disability is a broad term that covers mobile-impairment and neurodevelopmental disorders (such as ADHD and dyslexia), among other things.
However, what if these accommodations set forth by the university are not enough?
As with many things at Taylor, a goal can only succeed if worked towards by the student body. Success or failure hinges upon support from the community that exists on campus.
While the Echo Editorial Board is aware that there is much to discuss as a university, we hope to start open dialogue that will emphasize the many changes that need to be made in order to make our education accessible to all.
To see peers with disabilities as equals and not as ‘other,’ one needs to be educated. This means reading, watching and discussing resources created by individuals with disabilities. These can be educational resources or even artistic pieces that allow us to see their point of view. Listening to and validating the experiences of our peers is crucial.
Then there are physical steps we can take to make sure our campus is more accessible. Scott Barrett, coordinator of accommodations for disabled students, had plenty of ideas.
“We should all be mindful of how we are blocking doorways, handicap-accessible door buttons, and walkways,” Barrett said. “Sometimes we fail to see the barriers we create through our carelessness or when we are in a rush.”
Often people are not aware of how hard it is to move across our campus until they are impaired themselves. One such person is senior Wesley Jones, who spent much of last semester in a wheelchair due to an injury. Many times, you could find him struggling to shift chairs in the Hodson Dining Commons as he made a path to his wing’s dinner table.
It is difficult for anyone to quickly exit the chapel or make it through a packed lunch line with a plate of food; we need to be empathetic and considerate towards our peers who also have impaired mobility.
Much of our campus was not built with anyone but the able-bodied in mind. There are certain features, such as the “big stalls” in bathrooms, that were designed to serve those with mobile impairments. Using these as a last resort shows respect towards peers who have only one option.
As the university continues to make improvements across campus, it is the Echo Editorial Board’s hope that accessibility for those with physical disabilities becomes top priority.
Besides physical changes, there is a need for changes in programming that require one to be able-bodied.
Jones experienced the joy of getting to feel included while accommodations were made in light of his broken leg. One such example is a little extra space and time given to him on a swing dancing pick-a-date.
“Taylor is a wonderful place, and its great events, communities, traditions, and other phenomena ought to be accessible for everyone in whatever capacity we can make that possible,” Jones said.
Traditions might be the most undesired aspect to consider modifying. Many would prefer not to see a decades-old activity change, even in the slightest. However, at the end of the day, a tradition is not doing its job if it ends up leaving some students out of the fun.
The first floor of Samuel Morris Hall has permanently changed where they sit in the chapel to accommodate a brother who could not sit in the balcony.
“We felt it was better to leave the traditional spot for the sake of community,” senior Connor Dollarhite said, who serves as a PA on Foundation. “The reception among the floor was mixed, as it is anytime you change a beloved tradition, but all have gradually seen the intent for the change and have rallied behind one another.”
There are many more ways that we, as a community, can make campus more accessible to our peers with impaired mobility. In addition, the Echo Editorial Board acknowledges a variety of disabilities exist across the student population, each with their own challenges. Finally, we seek only to amplify the voices of students with disabilities, not be their voice.
In order to love well, our community needs to discuss these issues and take them seriously.
“This struggle and journey towards equal rights, equal access, and equal dignity is ongoing,” Barrett said.
So, Taylor, how will we lovingly aid our neighbor in this struggle?