The SGA passes a finalized Survivors Bill of Rights and creates a disability equity task force

‘It’s denied accommodation’

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Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Grace Lee, Collegian Correspondent

At the Student Government Association meeting on Wednesday, the senate passed the finalized revision of the Survivors Bill of Rights, as well as a motion to create a disability equity task force.

The University of Massachusetts campus is largely inaccessible for disabled students. Mya Pol, a communications major, spoke to the senate about her personal experiences regarding the inefficient disabled students’ accommodations on campus.

“I came to UMass with an able body,” Pol said. “Sophomore year I developed a disability that required me to start using a wheelchair.”

Pol, who is now a senior, said, “Most of my classes were inaccessible and that is still the case.”

In addition to classrooms, currently there are only four buildings on campus where Pol can easily access a bathroom, she said.

Inaccessibility is directly harmful to disabled individuals health and wellbeing. “Just as of last week, I was told that part of why my condition is so bad is due to a state of neglect,” Pol said.

Beyond physical inaccessibility, UMass faculty and staff, as well as its students, are inadequately educated about disabled sensitivity.

“There are microaggressions all the time,” Pol said. “I had a professor who stated that I have seizures in front of the entire class.” She is open about her diagnosis, however she said that this type of behavior could be very damaging to other disabled students.

Pol, partnered with Audrey Gabriel, a junior microbiology major and the chair of the social justice and empowerment committee, is asking for complete equitable access for every single student. This includes making the campus and its buildings more accessible and educating the community on disability culture.

“Students have to fight for weeks, months sometimes, to receive those supports or they just give up,” Pol said.

“It’s denied accommodation,” she added. “All of us deserve the exact same equitable access on this campus and the University has the means to do that.”

Directly after this, the senate voted to pass the finalized revision of the Survivors Bill of Rights.

The SGA has been working in conjunction with administration to create amendments that are helpful to students and that the University can guarantee are provided.

Dean of students Evelyn L. Ashley who has been a main collaborator with the SGA on the bill said, “Everything that is in there, we feel we can make sure students are awarded.”

Additionally at the end of the bill it states, “The bill shall be subject to future amendments as dictated by the needs of the students and campus climate, as well as changes to State and Federal laws.” This is to ensure that this remains a living document.

Senior political science major Hayden Latimer-Ireland, chair of the administrative affairs committee, said “This was created out of student need so we want it to grow as student need changes.”

This finalized document will be the version shown by administration to students and on UMass websites.

Grace Lee can be reached at [email protected]