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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

ADA compliance cannot be equated with accessibility 

The UC Davis campus presents serious accessibility issues for students with disabilities


Simply put, even though UC Davis buildings comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this is not the same as having an accessible campus. 

For many students with physical disabilities, parts of the UC Davis campus can be difficult to access. Students have cited Wellman 126 as an example of a lecture hall that has accessible seating in the back but only offers a staircase down to reach the front of the class. This is unacceptable — all students should have the opportunity to talk with instructors after class, turn in assignments and sit near the front of the classroom if they so choose.

The layout of other spaces on campus may not be accessible for students with physical disabilities. Members of the Editorial Board have noticed that there are tables in buildings that a person in a wheelchair would not be able to use due to chairs built into the floor. Further, accessible entrances are often located in the back of buildings, in inconvenient areas or require traversing uneven pathways. 

In the words of a representative from the Autism and Neurodiversity Community from an interview with The California Aggie in 2020, “It’s really telling when, say, you have the wheelchair accessible entrance out in the back of a building along with the trash and the freight.”

The members of our community with such disabilities should not be disregarded in the classroom or anywhere on campus. 

There have been multiple efforts pushing for increased accessibility on UC campuses in recent years. A UC-wide coalition for disability rights created a “Demandifesto” in July of 2020 that identified problems with the infrastructure on UC campuses and the issue of only meeting ADA standards, rather than looking for ways to create the most accessible campus possible for all students. Last month, Senate Resolution #25, drafted by the ASUCD Disability Rights and Advocacy Committee, was passed by the Senate table. The resolution notably demands that instructors grant students all accommodations approved by the Student Disability Center (SDC), as they must in accordance with the ADA.

It is essential that our instructors and administrators listen to those advocating for disability rights. As the resolution states, students with disabilities “have worked and continued to work hard for their educational goals, [and] giving them grief about accommodations only hinders those goals and adds to the systemic ableism that is rampant in higher education.”

The administration must prioritize those with disabilities when making decisions about the UC Davis campus and include people with disabilities in these conversations. It’s critical for construction and renovations to increase accessibility, rather than to just meet ADA standards. 

In terms of obtaining accommodations, the SDC serves a vital role on campus. That said, the center has its limitations. It can be difficult for students to have a record of their disability if they lacked health insurance before attending UC Davis or could not afford diagnostic assessments associated with their disability; assessments for autism, for example, can cost between $2,400-$3,200

Thus, not all students with disabilities will be registered with the center. Instructors must provide students with the accommodations they need and be understanding of each student’s situation.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but the campus environment should promote equity for all students. And though administration has the largest role in improving campus accessibility, it’s not only up to them: organizations, individual students and instructors can all contribute to making a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities.


Written by: The Editorial Board



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