Last semester, the Student Government Association (SGA) established a new board on campus: the SGA Accessibility Board. This board was created to help address, and advocate for accessibility and mental health around campus, as well as holding the Wheaton administration accountable. Currently on the board are Mikaela Savarese ’22, Maura Rielly ’22, Emma Hert ’22, Aubrie Galinis ’22, Jill Feder ’20 and El Thomas-O’Brien ’23.
Rielly ’22, vice chair, stated, “It’s about stepping up and advocating for those who need and have the right to be heard. It’s sad to see the lack of accessibility, help and resources for physical and mental disabilities at Wheaton. I know that I, along with the rest of the board members are passionate about leaving Wheaton in a much better place than when we found it.”
The Accessibility Board has been hard at work since the beginning of the semester. Issues, such as an amendment to the SGA poster policy to add a mandatory accessibility statement and adding ableist costumes to the “What not to Wear on Halloween” presentation, have been successfully tackled.
However, there are still many other accessibility concerns that the Board is currently addressing. The accommodations process can be harrowing to any student, but most particularly, international students. Due to the wording, inconsistent definitions and the long length of the required forms, some students are unable to receive the necessary accommodations required for them to succeed on campus.
Students have been very vocal about their experiences and have expressed extreme frustration with the current process. The Accessibility Board is working in conjunction with Accessibility Services to help resolve these issues.
Another topic the Board is currently focusing on is the physical accessibility of campus. There are many buildings on campus that are completely inaccessible, such as the Counseling Center and Park Hall. There are many pathways where pavement is cracked and is a safety hazard not only for people with disabilities, but for the general populace.
Additionally, some signs in the older buildings don’t have braille, whereas the signs in the newer buildings have braille in inconvenient spots. Students and faculty have been very expressive of their disappointment that these physical issues have arisen. The Board is currently working closely with Physical Plant to solve these issues.
Although the Board has been working hard to resolve these issues, the work is far from over. However, the people on the Board are very passionate about advocating for change, “I chose to apply as chair of this board because I am passionate about making beneficial change on campus. Accessibility and mental health services on campus are horrifically lacking and seeing as this type of work is what I hope to do career-wise, I thought this would be the perfect place for me” stated Savarese ’22, chair of the Board.The Accessibility Board encourages anyone who may have an accessibility concern to reach out to Mikaela Savarese at firstname.lastname@example.org. To keep up to date on any events the Board may be hosting, follow them on Instagram: @w.acc.board.