Disabled students demand inclusion in UC system

Disabled Students Program
Brian Bi/File
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled students are advocating for increased accessibility and inclusion in the UC system.

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Disabled UC students are speaking up for improved inclusion in the UC system in honor of the 30th anniversary of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA.

Last fall, UC Davis graduate student Megan Lynch started compiling a list of all that she thought needed improvement to accommodate disabled students on campus. Since then, UC students with UC Access Now have been working on releasing the disability, equity and justice demands in the form of documents seeking more accessible infrastructure as well as increased accessibility and inclusion for disabled students, faculty and staff at UC campuses.

Lynch said the concept of the social model of disability is central to the movement.

“The social model of disability says, ‘Look, I’m not disabled by my own condition anywhere near as much as you’re disabling me by, say, taking my tax dollars and buying products that I can’t use and making that the only product choice that’s here,’ ” Lynch said.

In January, Lynch was sick with the flu and did not want to expose others around her.

She had an exam scheduled that week but was still expected to take the exam unless she had a doctor’s note.

“They just wouldn’t take my word for it,” Lynch said. “I don’t have family taking care of me. I don’t have anybody who’s going to take me, you know. I would have to get up sick as a dog, go to the student health and expose other people to this sickness to get the note to prove to you that I’m sick enough.”

The demands advocate for the ADA not to be a “ceiling” and allege that the UC system has not fully met ADA conditions.

For example, although biking is the most popular form of transportation at UC Davis, it is difficult for disabled students to access bike racks, according to Lynch. She added that she tried contacting the campus’s Parking and Transportation Services, but had a very difficult time meeting anyone. The demands allege that students were told bike racks were not covered under the ADA.

Additionally, according to the demands, many abled students choose UC campuses for the “thriving” cultural and sports programs and housing amenities. However, disabled students sometimes lack these amenities — on some campuses, disabled graduate students who need to live close to campus are not given priority in housing lotteries.

UC Berkeley is currently the only campus in the UC system with a disabled makerspace, according to Nate Tilton, lab manager for the UC Berkeley Disability Lab.

Tilton said disabled people navigate the world “differently” and need a makerspace centered around flexible design.

To advocate for more accommodations across the UC system, Tilton said a universitywide disabled student advocacy group should be created.

“The disabled campus community deserves to participate in just as active and rich a campus life as abled members of the campus community,” the demands state.

Contact Aryia Dattamajumdar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AryiaDm.