Disability services on campus need to do better

Access and Accommodations Center is available on campus for student assistance, located at Student Center East room 205. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Three weeks into my freshman year, I fell and broke my ankle. It required surgery and put me on a knee scooter. It’s not what I had pictured for the semester, but I refused to quit school. I found myself needing something I had never imagined—disability services from the university. 

At such a stressful time, I thought disability services from Georgia State would only make life easier, but I found them stressful and, at times, counterproductive. 

It takes a lot of documentation to get disability services at Georgia State. Once I had finally collected it all, I had to set up an in-person meeting to establish which services I needed. While I understand an in-person meeting’s professionalism, it’s physically taxing to get back and forth from the office on a mobility device.

I was eligible for late arrival to class and given access to the disability gate on my housing card.  Being allowed to be late was helpful and accounted for transportation errors. The access card took weeks to start working finally, so I had to show my ID to get buzzed through the gate every time I wanted to get in or out of my dorm.

This small task took an extra six minutes each time. I already didn’t have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, so these little inconveniences added up.

The most significant area in need of improvement is the bus routes and their accessibility. On our city campus, buses are essential for disabled students. The purple route led to all my classes, but it was only running one bus and didn’t have a working lift for a while. 

The bus driver said that she could not do anything about it the first time it happened, but it kept happening for weeks. At one point, the driver suggested I hop onto the bus while holding the rails, which is incredibly dangerous and embarrassing. 

Declining such an offer based on safety and maintaining my dignity, I found myself having to scoot uphill to get to class. It was incredibly exhausting and made me feel less valued as a student. 

Georgia State should be running more buses with trained staff and working lifts on all routes. It’s 2020, so this should be the bare minimum, especially considering we have a fully staffed office of accessibility and accommodations. 

Carly Brentlinger, an economics major, agreed that we need better buses. “One time, I almost missed a physics quiz because I had to wait for a third bus with a working lift,” she said. 

If we had more buses up to code with better-equipped staff, this wouldn’t be such a common experience for students with disabilities. 

These examples are only a handful of the issues surrounding disability services on campus based on my own experience. I was privileged to know my time needing disability services had an end date, but that is not the case for most students with disabilities. As the largest urban university in the state, having a disability services department that isn’t doing its due diligence reflects poorly on our institution’s infrastructure.

Until changes are made, Georgia State leaves an entire demographic of students feeling unheard by their university.