In late September, Disability Education, Alliance, and Resources at Ithaca College (DEAR@IC) began regularly meeting as a new club. The organization’s purpose is to better educate people about disabilities, which includes learning about what resources are available for students with disabilities and educating able-bodied people so they can become better allies.
The creation of DEAR@IC is an admirable effort and is one that is sure to help a lot of people on campus. In the past, the college has struggled to be an accessible campus. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation of the college after a complaint was filed that it was not accessible enough. Additionally, in 2015, a former student filed a $10 million lawsuit against the college under the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to provide accommodations for a physical handicap. Although the college has, in recent years, made renovations to make its campus more handicap-accessible, members of the college community agree we still have a long way to go in terms of becoming fully accessible.
One of the first steps to increase accessibility is increasing the knowledge of students in need about what resources they already have available to them, which is part of what DEAR@IC is setting out to do. Not only will this enable students to utilize the college’s resources to their full extent, but this club could also inspire collaboration to produce innovative ideas about how to improve the services that are already offered at the college. By knowing what accessibility resources the college provides, students will be able to better point out the cracks in the current system and hopefully inspire improvements.
The creation of DEAR@IC also serves as a support system for students with disabilities and provides a space where they can connect with each other and share their experiences. Students with disabilities at the college have reported, in the past, feeling unsupported or unrecognized due to their disabilities, which is unacceptable. Safe spaces are necessary in any community, and the addition of one for students with disabilities at the college is long overdue.
DEAR@IC provides an official, valid outlet for students to be collectively vocal about how the college can improve its accessibility for students with disabilities. There is strength in numbers, and the addition of an official organization on campus will increase the number of students talking about accessibility as well as the frequency of it. The college should utilize the organization’s members and experiences when moving forward to become more accessible.