UC Davis has always been known as a bike-friendly campus. What is less known, however, is that the campus is also friendly to the disabled community.
Wheelchair users as well as blind students said that in general, the campus has few physical barriers that make getting around difficult. Nevertheless, they report that additional changes and a more educated community are necessary to make the campus even more accommodating to disabled students.
“Overall it is really accessible. It’s very flat and not hilly at all,” said Brett Bunge, sophomore communication major. “It’s one of the reasons I decided to come to Davis.”
Adam Shapiro, senior clinical nutrition major, agreed that the campus is friendly to wheelchair users, but said that he occasionally has trouble opening doors.
“For me and my situation, doors are some of the biggest barriers. I can’t open doors so I have to depend on the buttons or ask people to help me open doors,” Shapiro said. “Some of the buildings don’t have automated push door buttons to access the doors.”
For sight-impaired students, physical accessibility is not a problem, but getting access to resources such as books and the Internet can be challenging.
“Smartsite and some webpages are not blind friendly at all,” said Claire Stanley, a junior political science and communication double major. “Getting my textbooks in an accessible format, which the Student Disability Center (SDC) does and they’re awesome and amazing, is always time consuming and professors use additional resources so you can really fall behind.”
Shapiro, Stanley and other disabled students formed the Student Disability Advocacy Group (SDAG) earlier this year to help address issues they have on campus. They also hope to educate their fellow students about the disabled community.
“Disability doesn’t have to be something that sets someone out or separates them any more than any other minority factor like race, ethnicity or gender. I feel like disability can be related with all of these things,” said Hoby Wedler, a senior chemistry and history double major. “I thought having a disability club and having a support center run by students, for students with disabilities really couldn’t be a bad idea.”
The group has already successfully lobbied UNITRANS to change its “first in, first out” parking procedure. To make it easier for blind riders to identify buses, drivers now park in the same spot every time.
“For blind people especially it [was] very annoying because you have to ask which bus is this, and if there’s no driver on board which there often isn’t at the MU, they’re not there to tell you, ‘yeah this is the G line,'” Wedler said.
The SDC also works to make the campus and its resources accessible to hundreds of students with a wide variety of disabilities. Jeanne Wilson, director of the SDC, said that students should be aware of the many reasons why someone may need special accommodations.
“Sometimes people don’t see the disabilities. For example, they may not realize that someone has to sit in the front of the classroom because they have difficulty hearing and need to lip read,” Wilson said. “We always try to help accommodate every person who has medical documentation of a disability, to provide equal access to all students.”
In general, disabled students said they were pleased with the maturity of other students and the administration’s willingness to help make the campus more accessible.
Members of the SDAG encouraged non-disabled people to join the group, because changes made for people with disabilities often end up helping everyone.
“The whole point is in order to promote this idea of awareness we need everybody, not just the disabled community. Every other movement in the past – women’s rights, African American rights – if those were the only people fighting for it, it wouldn’t mean as much. We need everybody involved,” Stanley said.
For more information about the Student Disability Advocacy Group, visit the group’s Facebook page.
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at email@example.com.