For most Georgetown students, the seemingly ever-present maze of construction on campus is little more than an inconvenient eyesore. Yet, this labyrinth of barricades and detours poses a substantial obstacle to many disabled students navigating Georgetown’s fractured campus. The university is responsible for accommodating the needs of all Hoyas and must make conscientious policy decisions during future construction and reconstruction projects to uphold its promise of an inclusive campus community.

University President John J. DeGioia acknowledged the university’s failure to cultivate a disability-friendly campus during a conversation with The Hoya last Thursday (“Q&A: DeGioia on Faith, A Campus Reconstructed,” The Hoya, Sept. 25, 2015). There is no excuse for not being able to accommodate. We know what our responsibilities are to respect a number of our community,” DeGioia said.

A culture of inclusivity could begin with replacing those doors in Lauinger Library that are not disability-friendly. This change would be a meaningful and feasible first step toward the goal, as would ensuring the availability of wheelchair-accessible tables in popular study spaces.

Cultivating true disability justice at Georgetown, however, extends far beyond the implementation of these fixtures. In January 2014, disabled student activists prompted an online conversation using the hashtag #BDGU, or “Being Disabled at Georgetown University.” A large number of disabled students lent their voices to the discussion, with many choosing to highlight the necessity of cultural rather than physical, structural transformation at Georgetown. It is important to note that disability at Georgetown does not just refer to those with a mobility disability, but also includes mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Several students expressed frustration with professors who failed to remember their accommodations throughout the semester. Consequently, many also advocated for the creation of a disability cultural center on campus.

The grassroots Disability Justice for Georgetown campaign is devoted to the creation of a disability cultural center similar to those that already exist on the campuses of schools like the University of Minnesota and Syracuse University. This center would serve to facilitate conversation and awareness about disability at Georgetown.
Georgetown’s commitment to upholding diversity on campus cannot mean ignoring the needs of others. Both structural and cultural changes are necessary to ensure the full inclusion of all students as respected members of the campus community.

One Comment

  1. Ken O'Brien says:

    I believe the editorial is missing some critical punctuation marks. Most importantly, where does this quote from President DeGoia begin: There is no excuse for not being able to accommodate. We know what our responsibilities are to respect a number of our community,” DeGioia said. ?

    Without the preceding quotation mark, I’m not sure what can be attributed to him.

    The reason I raise this point is because I am intrigued by the point, “There is no excuse for not being able to accommodate.”

    If these are DeGoia’s words, I would actually give him the benefit of the doubt. The administration just might be able to find an excuse for not being able to fully accommodate when students, particularly the editorial board of our student newspaper in this case, they make a suggestion as arbitrary as replacing “those doors” in Lau.

    Can you even specify which doors you’re referring to? The automatic sliding doors at the entrance? The countless doors throughout the library which have automatic handicap buttons? The brand new doors in the main staircase which are finally cleanly painted and fully functional for the first time in my four years at Georgetown? Or the automatic elevator doors which service every floor, allowing disabled community members access to virtually all spaces without needing to use a single swinging door? (I say virtually all because other swinging doors closing off certain spaces invariably have handicap button access).

    I couldn’t agree more with your objective here. The administration must be more responsive and accommodate the needs of all students. However, for next time, please take some time actually give your editorial specific direction and actionable solutions. Otherwise, students may very well continue to find your lack of scrupulousness in writing insulting.

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