Associated Students Inc. discussed ways to expand accessibility on campus with physical, digital and academic plans for the future at Wednesday’s Senate meeting.
ASI Commissioner for Disability Affairs Heather Schmoll highlighted the importance of advocating for accessibility.
“It’s incredibly important and I think it’s an issue that’s been overlooked,” Schmoll said. “To better understand what my community is going through[…]approximately 5% of Long Beach State undergraduate students have a disability registered with the Bob Murphy Accessibility Center, and only one-third of those students will graduate within eight years.”
Academic and student life accessibility is about inclusion for disabled students in various aspects of campus life. An example of this would be needing an interpreter for a class or someone to take notes for a disabled student. However, according to Schmoll, note takers are no longer paid, due to a lack of funding, and students must rely on their peers to help them in class.
“I feel like academic and student life accessibility is a really big issue that I’ve been trying to focus on because a lot of our students with disabilities are being left out of events that are going on our campus,” Schmoll said.
The BMAC is currently working on an accessibility guide to help with future events, according to Schmoll.
Digital accessibility is a broad scope, and with it, includes the umbrella of online classes and different types of fonts. Online courses should have material in easy to read fonts, media with closed captioning and pamphlets or flyers should be made with large print.
“Even just simple things like fonts are important because individuals with a cognitive disability or any disability can have difficulty reading fonts, because some of them make the uppercase letter ‘I’ and lowercase letter ‘L’ look the same,” Schmoll said.
Senators said that there is confusion about where accessibility complaints are supposed to be filed. ASI Chief Diversity Officer Maythe Alderete Gonzalez said there was no clear process to making a complaint as people were turned away.
Schmoll clarified that BMAC was the official authority for such complaints, and that ASI will be working with the center so that there wouldn’t be further confusion.
“Accessibility throughout campus is still being worked on [with] QR codes to open doors and figuring out who is supposed to handle construction for more options,” Alderete Gonzalez said.
The Barrier Removal Committee is responsible for checking physical accessibility on campus, and are the authority that plans accessibility routes during construction.
However, students have complained that ongoing construction on campus has impacted their pathways to class. Schmoll said she’s working on trying to get representation on the committee so there is more open communication and understanding of what they can do, and have someone who can advocate for the students on the team.
“Every time I try to bring up a physical accessibility issue on campus, I have been stonewalled by the Barrier Removal Committee,” Schmoll said. “They have no student representative, no public minutes and they’re not open to the public.”
Alderete Gonzalez also addressed student concerns with the Dream Success Center caused by a lack of funding. The center’s purpose is to help provide support, resources and services to undocumented students, but students have expressed disappointment over the center’s still continuing search for an assistant or associate director.
“The students are feeling like their needs are being let down and their voices aren’t being heard,” Alderete Gonzalez said.
The next ASI Senate meeting will be held Oct. 16 at 3:30 p.m. in USU 234.