UBC’s Centre for Accessibility has been implementing Policy 73, which was fully reviewed last December by the Board of Governors for the first time in 19 years.
UBC’s radio station, CiTR, was ahead of that curve in supporting those with disabilities on campus today — four years ahead, in fact.
All Access Pass — CiTR 101.9 FM’s radio show that delves into accessibility news on and off campus with topics such as housing, mental health and sexuality, viewed through the lens of those with disabilities — has been on air for almost four years, broadcasting every second Wednesday from 2 to 3 p.m. The show is run by CiTR’s Accessibility Collective, a small team of students and community members with disabilities.
For Collective member Lidia Cooey-Hurtado, the show acts as a space for people with diverse accessibility needs to express themselves as well as a public education tool to give visibility to those with disabilities.
“[It forwards] the perspectives of people who have had to fight to occupy these spaces often times, and who are also fun to listen to,” she said.
The Collective is one of the few spaces on campus specifically for students with disabilities, and members agree that UBC leaves several accessibility problems unaddressed despite their fairly progressive accessibility policy.
Among these issues, the Collective has identified the lack of accessible parking, loud noises from construction and the cost of paperwork that the Centre for Accessibility (formerly known as Access and Diversity) faces to accommodate student needs.
“... It’s a lot better [than it was]. Is it going to be perfect? No,” said Deepi Leihl, Accessibility Collective Coordinator. “I don’t really know if there is a perfect world that will be totally accessible, but people can work on it.”
According to Leihl, students with disabilities make up a diverse portion of our campus.
“There’s going to be people with wheelchairs and with walkers or pain or even people who visually look like they have a disability but they actually don’t,” she said.
Students with accessibility needs can register with UBC’s Centre for Accessibility, currently accommodating over 3,200 students with disabilities. It is a one-stop shop offering services such as academic concessions, exam accommodations and priority housing.
According to Janet Mee, director of the Centre for Accessibility, the Centre is currently implementing the newly upgraded Policy 73. It hopes to broaden the activities available to those with disabilities on campus among other initiatives. Now known as the Academic Accommodation For Students with Disabilities Policy, it only applies to academic activities. Once the new policy is passed, UBC will rename it the Accommodation Policy, broadening the range of activities that students are involved in, such as experiential learning and leadership opportunities.
Additionally, UBC proposed upgrades to its review and appeal procedure and clarification to both the university’s and the student’s responsibilities.
To prepare for its implementation, the Centre plans on updating their website, hosting workshops with faculty deans and department heads, as well as consulting with the AMS and the Graduate Student Society.
“It’s just a huge opportunity to do a whole educational campaign that really not only talks about the policy, but also talks about accessibility on campus,” said Mee.
Despite the amount of time since its last revision, Leihl supports the change.
“Obviously, it would have been nice if it was done way before ... but I do hope things change for the better,” wrote Leihl in a statement to The Ubyssey.
The Centre is also preparing for an open house in early March. Mee anticipates hearing student feedback at the event and hopes that it will serve as a way to talk about what the Centre does on campus.
“Students with disabilities contribute so significantly to the fabric of our educational institution,” she said. “... Ensuring that they have the opportunity to do so in a manner that is respectful provides them with agency and gives them independence.”
‘Fighting for the next generation’
With a student population of almost 56,000 that is growing every year, “there’s so many students, and they’re not all able-bodied people,” said Leihl. “... Every day someone is living with a disability, so it’s important that we acknowledge that and that they too have needs and goals and want to be a student.”
According to Alison Klein, a member of the Accessibility Collective, it can be isolating to not know others who share a disability.
“But to have others who also have disabilities and we can share those experiences, it’s not as isolating,” she said. “So I think for the next generation, it’s so rewarding.”
“We’re fighting for the next generation so they don’t have the same struggles as we do.”
If students are interested in joining the Collective, they can email Deepi Leihl at email@example.com or send a message via the All Access Pass Facebook page.