There are over 1,200 USC students living with disabilities. A disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities — including seeing, hearing, sleeping and more. Considering the difficulties that are an inherent part of life for a student with a disability, one might think that schools like USC would do everything that they can to make the lives of these students easier. But, all too often, that is not the case.
Despite the services for support and accommodations offered by USC’s office of Disability Services and Programs, students with disabilities at USC are often left without the proper support, accommodations and overall college experience that they want and deserve, mostly due to a minimalist attitude taken by administrators towards disability accommodations.
The ADA only suggests that “reasonable accommodations” be made for students with disabilities, and, to minimize costs and administrative hassle, schools will often provide students with disabilities only the minimum accommodation that they are legally required to provide, regardless of the effects that this may have on students’ lives. So, for example, students using wheelchairs may be technically able to attend class and live on campus by only frequenting wheelchair-accessible buildings; but, because there are so many buildings that are not wheelchair-accessible, the social and academic lives of those students are still limited. And, it is the limitations — academic, social and otherwise — on the basis of disability for students that are often the result of a university’s minimalist approach to disability accommodations.
What’s worse, oftentimes those limitations can affect a student’s entire college career, from admission right up until graduation.
The Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability estimates that two-thirds of undergraduate students with disabilities are unable to complete their degree after six years, partially because of the hardships they face when looking for accommodations from universities. Students at USC have recently attempted to combat some of those difficulties by proposing that administrators increase accommodations for students with disabilities, partially by increasing the physical accessibility of certain spaces and providing additional supportive resources for students. Although this proposal has been received by President C. L. Max Nikias with broad support from USG, no university representative has made any commitment to revising current policies to increase the quality of life for students with disabilities at this time.
Proposals like this are a step in the right direction — but, of course, they can only bring about real change if they are acted upon. As a proud Trojan who bleeds cardinal and gold, I would like to believe that USC will someday lead the nation in providing accommodations for students with disabilities, and begin to temper the ridiculously steep uphill battle that students face just to receive their college diplomas. But, I fully believe that this will not happen until students of all abilities join together to pressure administrators to take more than a minimalist approach to bettering the lives of students with disabilities.
Junior, political science