The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors will vote to decide if they should create a Secretary of Accessibility on Wednesday, May 19.
The purpose of the Secretary of Accessibility would be to promote accessibility and disability awareness on campus, according to Chair of the ASI Diversity and Inclusion Committee Amanda Tejeda who co-wrote the bill with ASI Secretary of Diversity and Inclusion Jasmine Till.
“Ten percent of Cal Poly students are registered with the DRC, and this does not account for students with disabilities that are not registered with the DRC, but very rarely are they represented on campus or within ASI Student Government,” Tejeda wrote.
Nutrition senior Hannah Heath and her fellow members of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) student advisory committee proposed the bill.
Heath said oftentimes at Cal Poly, issues regarding accessibility for students with disabilities are folded into different roles.
“Inaccessibility is systemic within Cal Poly, and if it is going to be tackled, it needs to be tackled by somebody who has that sole purpose in mind,” Heath said.
Heath founded the DRC Student Advisory Committee with the purpose of trying to help the DRC better understand the needs of students with disabilities. The idea for the bill came up during one of their meetings in October 2020 when discussing ways to better advocate for accessibility on campus.
She said she hoped that by creating this position, accessibility would begin to be viewed as a priority.
“We knew that because disability is not discussed at Cal Poly, [the Secretary of Accessibility] needed to be a position that was very much in the spotlight, so that it would send a message to everyone on campus that disability was being prioritized,” Heath said.
She said she hopes the Secretary of Accessibility will be able to launch campaigns focused on educating people more about what exactly accessibility means and why it’s important. She also hopes that they will bring about more education regarding DRC services.
“Unfortunately, a lot of students aren’t aware of even where the DRC is on campus. They don’t know whether they’re eligible to receive services, or how to go about applying for them. It’s a very large barrier that a lot of students with disabilities face,” Heath said.
Biological sciences junior Jordyn Niemiec is the co-president of the DRC Student Advisory Committee, and she said that many of the misunderstandings about accessibility on campus come from a lack of knowledge about the issue.
“It’s not necessarily inaccessible because people don’t care or they don’t want it to be accessible, but because people aren’t aware that these accessibility issues exist, because they don’t live with it,” Niemiec said.
When the bill was recently passed in the ASI Internal Review Committee, it gave her hope that things were moving in the right direction.
“It felt good that the people who voted ‘yes’ for [the bill] felt that it was something that was needed, and that that visibility is kind of increasing on campus,” Niemiec said.
Nutrition freshman Reina Knowles is also a member of the DRC Student Advisory Committee, and she said that Cal Poly is currently doing “very poorly” in terms of accessibility, and she hopes that if passed, the bill will prevent future students from having the same experiences she did.
“Every single day the lack of accommodations on campus and the lack of accommodations in events makes me feel unwelcome,” Knowles said. “It makes me feel like I don’t belong.”
Many of the signs and stops for the DRC Tram on campus, which are designed to help transport students with disabilities, are located next to dumpsters, according to Knowles.
“That really sends out the message of how Cal Poly seems to treat disabled students on campus,” Knowles said.
Many of the students involved in the DRC Student Advisory Committee also helped to start the Disability Coalition, an Instagram account dedicated to increasing disability awareness and education at Cal Poly, according to Heath.
The Disability Coalition launched a social media campaign, an email campaign, and a chalk art campaign to encourage people to voice their support for the bill by emailing the ASI Board of Directors, further information about how to get involved can be found on their Instagram.