BY KATHERINE MOON
The Disability Action and Awareness Committee (DAAC) and the Community Action Board (CAB) teamed up to put on Drake’s first Social Justice Dialogue of the year. It was held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, in the Drake Room in Olmsted.
The dialogue started with a discussion on respectful language to be used when talking about people with disabilities and some international statistics about disability rights.
Several students attended this dialogue to talk about barriers, misconceptions and potential solutions to these problems.
The most discussed barrier was ignorance. People talked about how many don’t know what it is actually like to have a disability. They said the media portrays disabilities in the most extreme cases and in a negative light.
Environmental barriers were also discussed, including inaccessible buildings around campus. Students said Morehouse does not reach the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is no ramp to get into the building and no elevator to move through the floors. Athletes with leg and foot injuries struggle to go up and down stairs with crutches and scooters. This may result in further, more serious injuries.
The students with disabilities were the most passionate about the institutional barriers. They pointed out experiences in which professors initially didn’t comply with accommodations that are brought to them by students with disabilities. Because Drake’s policy says they have to, Student Disability Services Coordinator Michelle Laughlin gets involved and fixes things.
The biggest solution to all of these barriers is education, according to the students at the dialogue. One small group at the dialogue said that disability awareness should be just as common of a topic as race and sexual orientation. They didn’t want to say that those aren’t important to talk about, but people are more comfortable talking about race and sexual orientation than disabilities. Simply normalizing discussions about disability may decrease the ignorance surrounding the issue.
Jazlin Coley, a Drake resident assistant, was at the event to support a member in CAB.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that there is a need for more education and understanding on this campus for student disabilities services and disabilities in general,” Coley said, speaking from a student’s standpoint.
Coley said she personally was never aware of the lack of conversation due to the small effect that disabilities have in her own life.
Elena Hildebrandt is the vice president of student organizational outreach for CAB. She has a background in international disability rights. Hildebrandt said the biggest barrier that people with disabilities face on campus is inaccessible buildings.
“While accessibility is a big issue, there is little being done at Drake, especially when the office advocating for students is made up of only two people,” Hildebrandt said.
The Disability Action and Awareness Committee says the best way to spread the word about disability awareness is to get involved. They meet every other Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Meredith 202. Their next meeting will be on Oct. 10.
October is also Disability Awareness Month, so DAAC will be putting on several events throughout the month to spread awareness.