Disability Awareness Week spotlighted by the Cross-Cultural Center

The Cross-Cultural Center held a resource tabling event in Argyros Forum Oct. 29. Garret Rodriguez, a junior business administration major, poses with a frame promoting acceptance, that students could take photos with at the event. CASSIDY KEOLA Staff Photographer

Inclusivity at Chapman was celebrated Oct.28 through Nov. 1 during Disability Awareness Week. The Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) held a resource tabling event in Argyros Forum Oct. 29, with over 30 students in attendance. Partners of the CCC attended, including Student Psychological Counseling Services, Disability Services and the Center for Global Education.

Campus access has improved for students and faculty with disabilities, according to Arthur Blaser, a professor in the peace studies and political science departments, but more can still be done than meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We always need more awareness and to keep the discussion (on students with disabilities) going in all aspects of life,” said Jason McAlexander, the director of Disability Services. “It’s good these conversations are happening more and more.”

The Disability Services office is a formal resource on campus to help students with disabilities, ranging from a medical diagnosis and physical diagnosis to psychological disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1992 and mandates that the public cannot discriminate against people with disabilities, which influenced the programs in the office.

“College is no different,” McAlexander said. “Students come here and we have to make sure that the education is accessible.” Accommodations like extra testing time or note-takers are given to students, and there are follow-up services that provide advising and coaching.

Darlene Serrano is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Testing Coordinator at the Disability Services Testing Center, which works in conjunction with the Disability Services office to provide accommodations for students with disabilities. Students come to the testing center to take exams, where they can access resources like getting extra testing time or hearing their exams read out loud.

“I’ve worked at a previous university and coming to Chapman, I learned the university is proactive about (providing) accommodations,” Serrano said. “The only thing that would be more beneficial for students is professors making lectures more accessible. Sometimes they think about more apparent disabilities, but a lot of disabilities aren’t apparent like anxiety.”

McAlexander stressed the importance of awareness of the resources that the school provides, not just to students with disabilities, but students without disabilities who are interested in learning more. There is disability related coursework through the disability studies minor. At a higher educational level, there is a Ph.D. program with an emphasis on Disability Studies within the Education program.

“(We need) more role models in faculty across the disciplines,” said Blaser, who teaches courses focused on disability policy, such as “People with Disabilities in Politics and Society” and “Disability, Policy, and Law,” focusing on physical barriers and social stigma of living with a disability.

While Chapman is meeting minimum requirements for people living with disabilities, it should be doing more than meeting more than the minimum, said Blaser.

“Chapman needs to be proactive in recruiting students, faculty and staff with disabilities. Automatic restroom doors, like the one in Beckman, would make Chapman disability-friendlier,” Blaser said.

Outside the formal avenues of class and the Disability Services Center, there is no student group specifically focused on students with disabilities. Activities focused on students with disabilities are mostly held through the CCC. The CCC tries to get student feedback on how programs can be improved, said Tim Topper, the program coordinator.

“It’s not just (about) having an educational program, but getting feedback so students can talk to us and they can let us know which services are beneficial,” Topper said.

Outside of Chapman, McAlexander said that “diversity” and “inclusion” are “buzzwords (that) need to be used in the context of disability.”

“We are behind in representation in the media, disabled people are played by non-disabled actors,” he said. “This is a speed bump we have yet to iron out.”