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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 3, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Open Letter: Accessibility on campus needs improvement

To the Ithaca College community:

This letter is both designed to raise awareness of a diversity issue in critical need of attention and a profound plea to the Ithaca College community to genuinely and effectively actualize our diversity statement and goals inscribed in the IC Diversity Strategic Plan. For some groups, IC has taken a national lead in fostering a climate of celebration of diversity, but we need to do better.

On Oct. 6, 2016, I scheduled an Occupational Therapy workshop in Emerson Suites B in the Campus Center. To assure that this event was accessible to the full diversity of attendees, students, faculty, and other visitors to our campus, I was in regular contact with staff who oversee event planning. Four of the people planning to attend required accessible parking adjacent to the workshop venue. Despite agreements, recommendations and plans made to assure that four accessible spots would be available, the spaces were not held for those who need them to be included in the event.

Curiously, as Oct. 6 approached, several announcements appeared in the Intercom (Sept. 9 and 27) reserving U lot for different campus events. Yet, although I requested a similar announcement for only four spaces, no announcement was made.

Despite many hours of communication and planning, on the day of the event, the spaces were not available and no promised staff or reserved notices and cones were placed in the spaces that should have been designated for the four people who would not be able to attend if they had to park far from the venue. I made a decision, in light of the failure of the spaces to be held, to uphold my commitment to diversity and to unload the passengers at the venue and park the cars myself. Unfortunately, I was not available at 12:15 p.m. when one of the attendees and a family with a 17monthold child who uses a wheelchair and breathing equipment, had to park in the visitor parking lot and traverse the campus with no assistance.

Throughout the morning I was in contact campus event planners in efforts to rectify the situation but to no avail. I remain confused about where the breakdown occurred since I never learned why and how the simple request and extensive planning for four accessible parking spaces failed.

Let us use this unfortunate event as a learning experience and imminent call to action. Our diversity statement articulates:

Ithaca College continually strives to build an inclusive and welcoming community of individuals with diverse talents and skills from a multitude of backgrounds who are committed to civility, mutual respect, social justice, and the free and open exchange of ideas. We commit ourselves to change, growth, and action that embrace diversity as an integral part of the educational experience and of the community we create.

The Diversity Strategic Plan illuminates our rhetorical commitment to diversity for the full range of people on our campus. Both challenge and opportunity remain to actualize the statement and its 11 goals to assure that Ithaca College moves beyond good intentions to truly becoming a fully inclusive environment.