USG looks to accomodate disabled students

Undergraduate Student Government has submitted a proposal to USC administration in hopes of improving on-campus accessibility for students with disabilities.

A task force comprised of USG members and the student body at large identified a series of concerns regarding current infrastructure for students with disabilities. The group then consolidated these suggestions into a proposal, which was sent to President C. L. Max Nikias, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Dr. Ainsley Carry and Assistant Provosts for Student Affairs Dr. Monique Allard and Dr. Lynette Merriman.

“Just having student input is a success in itself … We need to keep moving and keep identifying spaces on campus that need to be reformed so that the Trojan experience can be as comfortable as it can be for all members,” said Rini Sampath, USG president-elect and current vice president, who led the proposal efforts.

In addition to Sampath, the proposal was authored by USG Diversity Affairs delegates Rhea LaFleur, Ariana Aboulafia and Andy Su, as well as Jordan Fowler, student body vice president-elect.

“I am really happy that [Nikias] was so receptive to hearing the proposal himself and also that he acknowledges that disability access is a campus-wide issue,” Sampath said.

Last semester, Sampath began to assemble a task force after meeting with freshman Zack Wentz at a Delta Omicron Zeta meeting.

Sampath, along with the USG Diversity Affairs delegates reached out to different campus stakeholders, such as Housing and the Office of Disability Services and Programs, as well as the student body to consolidate different concerns related to accessibility.

The group was able to make a number of recommendations to the University with the help of Dr. Eddie Roth, director of Disability Services & Programs. Roth helped identify which recommendations would be feasible and which ones would not. Roth suggested that USC hire universal design architects. According to the assembled disability task force, USC currently employs architects who adhere to the minimum requirements of the American Disabiliites Act.

While ADA serves as a nationwide standard, Sampath said USC has not done enough to support students with disabilities on campus. For example, students in wheelchairs have trouble accessing the new Wallis Annenberg Hall because the building does not have a wheelchair accessibility button at each door. For buildings where accessibility buttons are available, the buttons are only located on one side of the building.

“It is vital that architects keep students with disability in mind when constructing the building so that we don’t run into these problems. Although the building is beautiful, it is not functional for all students,” Sampath said.

Academic buildings identified by the task forces as being inaccessible to students with disabilities included the University Religious Center, Raubenheimer Music Faculty Building, Leventhal School of Accounting and the College Academic Services Building. Housing buildings included Regal Trojan, Century Apartments, Parkside Apartments, International Residential College at Parkside and New North Residential College.

The task forces also identified that the Disability Office lacks confidential conversation spaces for students to meet with staff members.

Additionally, students with chronic illness such as Crohn’s disease expressed desire for a  policy protects them from being unfairly penalized by their professors.

USG is now waiting to hear back from the administration, then follow up and arrange another meeting

“A lot of time, people think of diversity as just different races, but there is also physical diversity and diversity in ability. Some people are not as physically able as other people, and others are not as mentally able as other people,” said USG Diversity Affairs delegate Andy Su. “Being able to put this proposal out there and let the administration know that this is a priority for students … When they are making decisions, like building the new University Village, it is critical that they think about all students.”