The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors unanimously voted in favor of creating a secretary of accessibility at an open forum meeting on Wednesday, May 19.
According to nutrition senior Hannah Heath, who is the founder and president of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) Student Advisory Board, the ASI Board of Directors received 30 emails in support of the bill.
The emails came from current students, parents of students, alumni, faculty, staff members and even from a parent of an incoming student.
“There was just kind of an outpouring of support that I’ve never seen before for any disability topic on campus previously,” Heath said.
She said that about five disabled students also spoke during the open forum about their personal experiences and why this bill is so “vital” to the disabled community.
“I think it was the first time for a lot of us as disabled students where we felt fully seen and understood by ASI, so it was a really powerful moment kind of seeing everybody vote and say yes yes yes,” Heath said.
Heath said the new secretary will work to form new relationships between Cal Poly students with disabilities, the DRC and the “greater campus at large” in order to further raise disability, education and accessibility awareness.
Heath added that this will also be the first time that many students are going to start hearing about disability and accessibility related topics on campus.
“It’s going to be this really great learning experience for a lot of students who otherwise would not have been exposed to the amazing culture that is the disabled student body,” Heath said.
Chair of ASI Diversity & Inclusion committee Amanda Tejeda said the secretary of accessibility is “a step forward” for Cal Poly.
One of the responsibilities of the secretary of accessibility will be to serve as a liaison between ASI and the DRC and constantly stay involved with the DRC Student Advisory Committee.
Tejeda said it is important that the new secretary sits on various university-wide committees to advocate in favor of more physical accessibility on campus and for better curriculums. She said many attendees of the May 19 open forum mentioned the lack of courses offered dedicated to education on disabilities and accessibility.
“Students with disabilities have and continue to face so many obstacles in their education and survival here at Cal Poly and having this position means ensuring there is always someone advocating for students with disabilities in ASI,” Tejeda said.
Heath said the DRC Advisory Board has been discussing the likelihood of a disability awareness event aimed at destigmatizing the connotations that come with disabilities.
Tejeda said she hopes the new position will be filled by someone who is registered with the DRC as they will know firsthand what it means to be a disabled student at Cal Poly.
According to the incoming ASI President Tess Loarie, ASI is currently recruiting for the secretary position and the candidate will be chosen in the next 2-3 weeks. The secretary is expected to begin working in late August.
Heath confirmed that the position will be filled by a disabled student, which will be the first time a spot will be reserved for disabled students on a campus committee.
Heath said she is excited for incoming students with disabilities because they are going to have the opportunity be welcomed into an environment where they will be seen as “champions.”
Despite all the progression and excitement Cal Poly has faced with the passing of the bill, Tejeda recognizes that there is still “so much more work to get done in ASI and across Cal Poly.”
“I hope that next school year, the secretary of accessibility does not stand alone in their advocacy work and is thoroughly supported by Board members and ASI Staff,” Tejeda said.
Applications to apply for secretary of accessibility are open until 9 p.m. on Friday, May 21.