April 7, 2011

Student Assembly Debates Resolution to Improve Accessibility for People With Disabilities

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The Student Assembly discussed a resolution to make on-campus events more accessible for people with disabilities on Thursday.

Citing 850 students registered with Student Disability Services, Margaux Genoff ’12 proposed Resolution 77 to encourage student organizations to make their events more accessible to students with disabilities. The 850 students include those with permanent physical and learning disabilities, but the number does not incorporate students with temporary disabilities, such as a broken leg.

Resolution 77 would add a five-item checklist to the Student Assembly Finance Commision’s funding form for on-campus events, including concerts, performances and lectures, Genoff said. Events that are not held in accessible rooms or spaces should not receive funding from the SAFC, she said.

“We’re putting this as a resolution to funding, because if this isn’t followed, there are repercussions,” Genoff said.  “This is not a technical issue — it involves all members of the Cornell community and not allowing these people to be marginalized any longer.”

If a student organization cannot ensure all five items, the resolution encourages them to contact Student Disability Services for assistance. As long as there is a record of this contact, funding will not be affected, according to Genoff.

A diverse range of student organization leaders support the resolution, said Talia Shear ’12, co-sponsor of the resolution and president of Cornell Union for Disabilities Awareness.

“Student organization leaders feel bad when they realize too late that an event  is not accessible … We view this as a win-win resolution,” Shear said. “Those with disabilities can attend all events, and student groups will know that everyone who wants to can attend their events.”

Another aspect to the debate was whether the accessibility statement should appear on the SAFC form or the Use of University Property form.

According to S.A. LGBTQ Rep. Matt Danzer ’12, the main difference is that the changes to the SAFC form are implementable now, while the eventual goal is to see them on the UUP.

In light of the S.A. and SAFC’s current initiative to simplify the funding process, SAFC co-chair Lauren Rosenblum ’11 objected to the resolution because it “adds another layer of bureaucracy,” and “could be the reason a group might not get funding.”

S.A. Minority Rep. Roneal Desai ’13 agreed with Rosenblum, supporting the use of the UUP to improve accessibility for events.

“As the S.A., we have the job to make sure that we represent all students on campus, not just those students who can walk up the slope without a problem,” AAP Representative Ulysses Smith ’13. “Do we value filling out a form or those students?”

Smith proposed Resolution 69 to address the University’s need to make buildings more accesible for people with disabilities.

Original Author: Laura Shepard