Hey again interwebs,
I’m fairly bad at predicting what I’m going to want to write about. Actually I think my brain rebels against it. Every time I’ve said I’m going to write about something, I’ve turned around and gone to pretty much the opposite of that topic. I don’t know what’s up with that. Consider this my apology for doing it yet again.
Today what I want to talk about is accessibility. Accessibility is a really big deal, and I think a lot of people are really used to buildings being accessible in the US. Probably because that’s how it should be? Yeah, that. I’m fairly used to seeing ramps and elevators. It’s a good thing.
Wesleyan doesn’t seem to agree. Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights (WSDR) founder Allegra just emailed our listserv asking for thoughts on Wesleyan’s accreditation self-study in regards to disability, and here are my thoughts.
In the accreditation self-study, Wesleyan says “Limited funding, steep topography, and numerous historic buildings challenged the University’s ability to satisfy accessibility needs without compromising the historic character of the campus.”
I love Wes and everything, but I didn’t realize our semi-shitty classroom buildings were so “historic” that we couldn’t possibly add a couple ramps and elevators without “compromising” them. And ya know, those works of art that are the Foss dorms probably couldn’t be contaminated with wheelchair access either. I think it wouldn’t be a big deal. I think the more honest answer is the “limited funding,” since it’s becoming less and less of a secret that Wes is a bit strapped for cash (need-blind? What?).
I decided to do a little bit of lazy “research” and found that 25 of Wesleyan’s buildings are listed as “first floor access only” (sometimes worded differently than that) on their disability accessibility map page thingy. And not every building is even listed. Including my house, where not even the first floor is accessible. That’s not awesome, Wesleyan. First floors are usually not all there is to a building. Classes aren’t always on first floors, our friends’ dorm rooms aren’t always on the first floor, that art show we want to see or lecture we want to hear isn’t always on the first floor. This is a little bizarre.
I’m not affected by this right now in that I’m not in a wheelchair.* In fact, I’m pretty sure that no current Wesleyan student is wheelchair-bound. I don’t really think that’s a coincidence. I think that if you’re a student looking at colleges and you’re in a wheelchair and you come to Wesleyan, you’re probably going to look around and realize it’s not the place for you. And that means we’re losing people who could be awesome members of our community.
I don’t know if other colleges do it better, to be honest. But I do know that Wesleyan is an awesome place that I love a lot, and I wish the community could hold itself to a high standard of accessibility and acceptance of disability. (Kinda like we do for the LGBTQ community, do many colleges have this going on? Didn’t think so) And let everyone get to WestCo wine and cheese.
*but the cool thing about MS is that I could be in a wheelchair at any moment (plot twist!), and if so, I like to think that I’d be able to stay at (and still love) Wesleyan