Florida State Prioritizing Disability Awareness, Accessibility, but needs Improvement for People with Invisible/Chronic Disease, Disabilities
As a Florida State University student, I make a point to read FSU News fairly regularly. I opened up facebook yesterday and to my surprise (and delight), I saw this headline on my newsfeed: SGA Ramp Improves Campus Accessibility.
Let me tell you, there is very little that is accessible on FSU’s campus for disabled students. The first dorm I stayed in two years ago didn’t have a single ramp to entire the building. For someone who struggles to climb stairs or uses any kind of walking device or chair, obviously this is a problem.
I am not the only one with problems; it is not anything new to the disabled minority how inaccessible and unaccommodating certain areas at Florida State have been up until this point. With very few handicapped spots, many of which are in both inconvenient spaces and almost constantly taken (there are so few that having a permit is often useless), it comes down to being ticketed for parking illegally or missing class time to find an appropriate spot. Or, perhaps not attending class at all.
Seeing this article is a glimmer of hope for those of us who struggle to get across campus. According to FSU News, the SGA is working together with the Disability Student Union to lead a campus-wide initiative to improve accessibility at Florida State. Two points for you, SGA!
"The status quo for disabled students is not acceptable,” Porwoll said. “Disability awareness is a priority of the administration. Once we made our issue the campus’ issue, things started moving forward.”
The new initiative includes a $27,000 ramp to increase accessibility to the student union bus stop, but does not stop there. There is a new focus on a “wider comprehensive disability awareness campaign:”
"SGA feels that a major part of the campus has been left out,” Stokes said. “These [students] can’t even get from the bus stop to the Union and that’s something that most students do every single day without thinking twice about it […]
We’re kicking off the campaign to raise disability awareness around campus by doing something that’s going to have a major impact on the daily lives of disabled students that most students aren’t even aware of,” Stokes said. "We’re fighting against complacency."
With the support of the SGA, the Student Disability Resource Center has started planning and promoting Disability Awareness Week, scheduled for October 15th-19th.
While this is an incredible improvement worthy of much praise, there is still an incredible amount of work to be done. Both faculty and students alike think of disabled individuals as either being completely immobile, wheelchair-bound, and visibly disabled, or not at all. There is very little understanding of disability when it is invisible or in the form of a chronic disease or condition, or that disability does not end with struggling with mobility.
This is where the work needs to be done. Improving the campus is one part of the puzzle, but educating Florida State on what it means to be disabled needs to be a priority of the Disability Student Union, the Student Disability Resource Center, and the SGA’s new campaign. To help others understand that just because you cannot see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Only time will tell whether or not their new campaign will include this awareness, but FSU is certainly moving in the right direction.
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