GUSA Tackles Accessibility
Published: Friday, September 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 02:09
To address confusion about available resources for students with disabilities, the Georgetown University Student Association’s Office of Disabilities launched “No Wrong Door,” an initiative to provide a comprehensive manual for navigating university and D.C. area disability resources.
The 35-page manual will include information about housing and academic accommodations, legal aid, community resources and internships for students with disabilities.
No Wrong Door stemmed from what GUSA saw as the absence of a consolidated and accessible resource hub for disabled students at Georgetown. Alyssa Peterson (COL ’14), GUSA deputy chief of staff for diversity and one of the leaders of the No Wrong Door initiative, recognized the discrepancy of information between minority Georgetown communities.
“I think the disability group as a community is marginalized on campus,” Peterson said. “If you look, we have the women’s center, the LGBTQ center, but there’s no sort of comparison for students with disabilities.”
No Wrong Door Chief Coordinator and GUSA Undersecretary for Disabilities Lydia Brown (COL ’15), who is autistic, pointed out that the initiative shares its name with state-level policies that guarantee universal access of certain services to disabled citizens.
“In a state that has a No Wrong Door policy, a person with a disability, one of their family members or a caregiver could go to any state office, and … be able to access the services [they need],” Brown said. “They can enter through any door, so to speak.”
The GUSA initiative provides students and faculty with a similarly thorough list of resources and contacts from such resources to provide services for students with disabilities. Peterson said that one of the university’s main problems, historically, has been a lack of publicity for its disability services.
“Georgetown does have good accommodations for students — they just don’t know about them — and that’s our concern,” Peterson said.
Brown shared Peterson’s concern for the accessibility of resources.
“The reason for creating No Wrong Door is that students don’t often know what resources are available, so hopefully this will empower staff and the university to provide this information to students,” Brown said. “Everything that’s in here is already something that exists, but what this is intended to do is provide a central hub of information no matter who you are and what you did for the information before.”
Drafted iterations of the policy have been posted on the GUSA website, and a finalized version will be made available to the public in the next few weeks. Additionally, GUSA has coordinated the initiative with Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr, Director of the Academic Resource Center Jane Holahan and Counseling and Psychiatric Services.
The initiative’s list of contacts builds upon current, well-established university resources such as the ARC and CAPS to include additional groups and services within the D.C. area.
Although the initiative focuses on empowering disabled students, both contributors see No Wrong Door as applicable to all Georgetown students.
“I think it’s more of an overall [resource],” Peterson said. “I think we have included things that the community as a whole can use. We’re trying to create a comprehensive resource for all people rather than trying to segregate disabled students into separate categories.”
Peterson said that GUSA hopes to distribute the finalized version of the document at New Student Orientation in coming years.
“Even though the people and personnel will shift, I think the document will be very viable next year and the years after that,” Peterson said.