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Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

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Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

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Editorial: CWRU’s disabled community has been neglected for too long

On Oct. 30, students who receive accommodations through Disability Resources (DR) had all of their phones buzz from an email. The first line stated very succinctly, “Trigger Warning: Suicide Themes.” DR and the LGBT Center were collaborating on a film about suicide awareness at Allen Ford Auditorium—a classroom with steep ramps and narrow rows, making it highly inaccessible.

What is worse than the location is the topic of the film. It’s bizarre that DR would promote this film about suicide to a population that is three times more likely to report suicidal ideation than its able-bodied counterparts. It’s so unusual that the DR would choose this film, and even more so that they would limit the target audience to a vulnerable population. Did they not consider the insensitivity of their decision?

The scariest part is for students who regularly work with DR and receive accommodations at Case Western Reserve University, this treatment is hardly surprising. It shows a pattern of neglect and dehumanization that disabled students constantly experience at CWRU.

Responsive transit is a much needed service around campus, and on paper this service is incredibly useful, giving disabled students the ability to get from one end of our urban campus—which spans over a mile—to another. Yet, there are only two drivers, and over 150 ride requests per day. As a result, demand far outpaces supply during the academic period. This makes those 15-minute breaks between classes, which is already a struggle for able-bodied students, become near impossible for students with disabilities.

In addition, this service is not available on the weekends. CWRU is cutting back its drivers and making the service as inaccessible as possible, and as a result disabled students are the ones who have to suffer.

Such neglect is not an uncommon experience at CWRU. Many students have shared their personal struggles with ableism on campus, especially on social media. The Instagram account @disability.cwru has given an insight into CWRU and its faculty’s stance towards its disabled population. Several posts highlight how many classes are inaccessible to students who need remote instruction accommodations, especially due to an illness such as COVID-19.

Other posts highlight the damaging effects of productivity culture, where taking care of your mental and physical health is sacrificed to get as much work done as possible. Many stories feature professors who completely ignore students’ extra time accommodations for exams and quizzes. This mistreatment not only is in violation of university policy—and the law—but it also feeds into a destructive habit of placing work over our own quality of being.

Being a college student is already enormously stressful, especially at CWRU. Too many students see no choice but to forgo sleep, healthy self-care practices and the opportunity to simply take a break from school all to stay on top of the unbearable workload. The longer that CWRU neglects its disabled student population, the more stories will come out of students experiencing mistreatment.

Many academic buildings are widely inaccessible. Most of Mather Quad, from Haydn Hall to Mather Memorial, is not accessible to students with mobility aids.

Last semester, the Thwing Center elevator was out of order for over a month, and was estimated to be fixed in almost two months, which left the lower level and third floor of Thwing—as well as the second floor of Hitchcock Hall—completely inaccessible to this population, as well.

Don’t count on a handicap door button to be working. Some students have had classes moved online for prolonged periods of time because professors were unable to enter these inaccessible buildings.

In addition to poorly designed campus infrastructure, many exams are incompatible with accommodations. From the humiliation of leaving a recitation section midway through, to the many professors who employ group quizzes, some methods of assessments are simply incompatible.

Not only does CWRU often fall short when providing academic accommodations, but it is especially frustrating to watch the university waste its budget on frivolous things that provide no immediate benefit to the student body. On CWRU’s June 5 video titled “CWRU Goes Bolder, Brighter with Brand Update” in which the university officially announced its logo change, commenter arlored1556 put it best: “Why was there a need for a new logo? Why not instead spend the $$$$$ making the Bellflower Hall wheelchair-accessible?”

CWRU could put its massive budget to better use to make this campus a more accessible place for all, and evidently the university needs to do better in communicating with disabled students and with supplying them the legal accommodations they deserve under federal law.

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Unsigned editorials are typically written by the opinion editor but reflect the majority opinion of the senior editorial staff.

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