Ashlynn Weisberg’s op-ed piece in the August 30 edition of the Sheaf hits the bullseye on several points.
Those of us who work for Access and Equity Services absolutely recognize that ingrained “institutional, social and systemic obstacles” are part of daily life for people with disabilities.
We agree that the implementation of “a justice-based system would push the institution to celebrate all kinds of learning styles and knowledge systems.” And, believe it or not, we don’t even take issue with the suggestion that AES “be dissolved” down the road.
The staff at AES have almost all been U of S students at some point. And almost all of us have disabilities. That gives us a unique perspective on the students — and the institution — that we serve.
Scholars and practitioners like us generally recognize two models of disability. In the medical model, the focus is on “fixing” the individual. In the social model, it’s understood that people are disabled by the physical, cultural and legal barriers constructed by society.
As an example, in the medical model of disability, a person with a hearing disability is expected to use hearing aids. But in the social model, the world would be made more accessible — live captioning would be available at public talks, flashing fire alarms would be installed beside every audible alarm, and the messages relayed over intercom systems would be transcribed to text.
We know we’re a Band-Aid solution to a bigger societal issue, but until society as a whole wecomes more inclusive, AES provides a much-needed alternative.
Without AES, it would be up to each instructor to provide accommodations to students. While any class can certainly become more accessible with a little effort, making a class completely accessible requires a range of resources and knowledge that few have access to.
Is there a future where AES could be dissolved or instead act as an advisory service, of sorts, offering guidance to instructors on how to improve the accessibility of their classes? With fundamental societal and resource shifts, it could happen.
Until that happens, though, we will continue doing what we can to help students on their path to success. To us, success is having students tell us that they overcame obstacles because of our programs. Success is seeing students make better life choices. Success is knowing that we’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life.
Your AES Team
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