Physical disabilities and accessibility issues on campus

Applying to college is a confusing enough process with a number of factors to consider, including student-to-faculty ratios, campus appearance and the degree programs offered, but Conner Svetly had to also evaluate schools based on their disability services.

Chapman students with physical disabilities need specific access to buildings and the tools for success on campus every day to create a level playing field in their college careers. But some students, like Svetly, hope that Chapman is held accountable for being accessible to all.

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Junior business administration major Conner Svetly

“It’s up to universities and schools anywhere to provide that (disability accommodations) because they basically accepted that student,” Svetly said. “They said, ‘OK we are willing to take this student as a part of our university,’ and so it is up to them to provide that care, to allow that student to thrive within their school.”

The junior business administration major was born deaf and at the age of 3 and 13, Svetly received cochlear implants in his right and left ear respectively, which allow him to hear.

Chapman Disability Services works with students one-on-one in an effort to make their college experiences as seamless as possible, at least from Svetly’s experience, by providing him with Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services. CART is a system that uses a court reporting stenography machine, a computer and software to display everything that is being said in the classroom, verbatim, according to the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre.

“As someone that has gone through life trying to fight for the ability to be on the same playing field as others, my family and I have definitely come across a lot of problems in which we haven’t been able to get what I need to be successful,” Svetly said.

Jason Quezada, the managing director of Adaptive College Experience (ACE) tutoring, has worked with students of all disciplines, giving them extra academic assistance. ACE tutoring is a third-party provider that will be introduced to the university in fall 2016.

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Sophomore business administration major Makenna Sewell

“Don’t just focus primarily on that one thing that you’re not good at. Focus on your strengths and weaknesses. Deficits don’t make everything. You must be able to overcome them by staying disciplined, determined and motivated,” Quezada said.

Quezada is hoping to make a change in the lives of the students he works with by providing academic mentorship and life coaching and hopes that they will, as a result, be capable adults after college.

While Chapman is working to improve the accessibility on campus, some students still find obstacles in everyday life. Sophomore business administration major Makenna Sewell, has found difficulty with her power chair living on campus in Glass Hall.

“Glass has these giant gates out front that are impossible to open. I just noticed too that the apartment that I live in, that’s supposed to be the accessible apartment, is very subpar with their requirements,” Sewell said. “I would say probably my biggest issue with Chapman as far as accessibility is just the living situation.”

Sewell said she has spinal muscular atrophy type III, a genetic condition that affects the nerves that control muscle movement, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine. As a result, she requires a power chair to get around.

Sewell said that she is provided priority class registration because doing so allows the university enough time to move the class to a room that is accessible.

“I do have to be super proactive, which sometimes is a bummer, but I would say that where there’s a will, there’s a way. If I want to do something, I’ll make it happen,” Sewell said. “(Accessibility) is important to me because it’s something that people don’t realize is such a big issue unless they’re faced with it. I feel like that’s kind of a bummer in our society, that people aren’t aware of accessibility issues.”

In an effort to explore disability awareness with students, Cross-Cultural Engagement hosted one of its Breaking Ground workshops on April 5 in Argyros Forum 209B, which looked into the privileges that able-bodied students have and how those students can be better allies to students with disabilities.

 

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