Letter to the Editor

This past December, I wrote a guest article  for Chimes regarding campus accessibility. I argued that asserting a commitment to accessibility without corresponding action isn’t sufficient. Part of that article specifically addressed the difference between making accommodations and campus accessibility: 

“In his excellent book, ‘Academic Ableism,’ Jay Dolmage differentiates accommodations from true accessibility. If an environment is accessible, accommodations don’t need to be given. One example of accessibility would be increasing the amount of time between classes so that members of the Calvin community with mobility impairments could get from one end of campus to the other during the break.”

Last June, after a department chair meeting where an early draft of the new academic schedule was shared, I raised a concern about having only 10 minutes between classes. It can be a challenge for many to walk the 0.6 miles from DeVos to North Hall in 10 minutes. But this is especially true for some students with mobility-related disabilities. And I raised the same concern in other contexts in subsequent months.

Unfortunately, this concern, like earlier suggestions for improving campus accessibility, seems to have gone unheeded. Last week, the provost’s office announced a new weekly schedule to go into effect starting fall 2022 with only 10 minutes between classes. The university has a Campus Accessibility Advisory Committee, but it was not consulted about the new schedule. This fact says something about how the university thinks, or doesn’t, regarding its alleged commitment to accessibility. We need to do better or stop claiming that we care about accessibility.