Tuesday, February 25

Disability Awareness Week town hall discusses educating faculty on campus resources

Panelists at the Disability Awareness Week Town Hall, hosted by the undergraduate student government Facilities Commission, included representatives from the UCLA Center for Accessible Education and the UCLA Committee on Disability. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

Faculty and students shared information on campus resources and services for students with disabilities at a town hall Wednesday.

The Facilities Commission, a part of the undergraduate student government, hosted a town hall during Disability Awareness Week to share resources and give a platform to students with disabilities to ask questions or share their experiences.

The UCLA Center for Accessible Education has been working to educate faculty on campus resources for students with disabilities, said Nickey Woods, director of CAE, said.

“There are times when the first time a faculty member is made aware of the CAE is when a student approaches them and says, ‘Did you receive my letter of accommodation?’” Woods said. “So one of the things we want faculty members to be aware of is that we exist before they get that letter.”

Woods said she thinks the campus community needs to move beyond compliance and the feeling that providing students with disabilities access is only a legal obligation.

“There’s a tendency on college campuses to delegate disability (services) to disability services offices – ‘That’s their job,’” Woods said. “Creating access is all of our responsibility.”

The UCLA Committee on Disabilities noticed last year that there was no Career Center programming for students with disabilities, said Laura Sencion-Mendoza, chair of UCOD.

She said the committee worked with the center to make recruitment fairs and programming more accessible for all students.

She also said the committee works with architects, so when students submit complaints through student government officials, the matter can be addressed.

Michelle Nguyen, the project director for the facilities commission’s Access on Board initiative, was in charge of organizing the event along with her initiative directors.

The Access on Board initiative seeks to improve the campus’ physical, social and technological infrastructure for students with disabilities, increase the representation and awareness of students with disabilities and create a community for students with disabilities on campus, according to initiative directors.

Although the Facilities Commission has held town halls in the past, a notable difference this year was that some of the speakers were students with disabilities, Nguyen said.

“How are we supposed to advocate for students with disabilities if we don’t include them in the conversation?” Nguyen asked.

One such student on the panel was Amy Bugwadia, a fourth-year political science student. Bugwadia, who said she has arthritis and other medical conditions, is also a resident advisor on the hill.

“I do have a lot of residents on my floor that do have disabilities that are visible or invisible, so I hope to be a better ally in that space in residential life, as well as for myself,” Bugwadia said.

Marisa Contreras, a third-year pre-psychology student, said being a transfer student, she didn’t know what resources UCLA offered for students with disabilities, but added she learned about them at the event.

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