In an effort to destigmatize disability and to promote greater accessibility to campus resources, the Office of Disability Resources has changed its name to the Office of Accessibility Services. The campus will also embrace a new accessibility sign (known more commonly as a handicap sign) that shows a more active, androgynous figure in a wheelchair.
“The new name, Accessibility Services, better represents the mission of the office,” Deans Lauren Patey and Crystal Hill wrote in a joint email to The Argus. “It is our goal to work to promote and facilitate access through outreach and training, collaborative partnerships, innovative programs, and proactive solutions across the campus. We hope to help to destigmatize the notion of disability and move toward seeing disability as part of diversity, and hope to foster a better understanding of this on campus. We have had the opportunity to work collaboratively this year with Equity and Inclusion, who is responsible for organizing the Campus Wide ADA and Accessibility Compliance Team. This committee is comprised of staff, faculty, and students across various offices on campus who are actively working to address concerns related to access on campus.”
As for the sign, WSA Chief of Staff Emma Austin ’19 argued that the change is more than symbolic.
“The previous sign portrays a lifeless, dependent, and stagnant person bound to their chair, whereas the new sign clearly conveys movement, autonomy and a distinctly human individual,” Austin wrote in a press release. “What started as a grassroots, guerilla, street art initiative turned into an internationally recognized campaign that quickly grew traction. Now, many locations across the world have adopted the new signage including the state of New York, Cambridge, MA, El Paso, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Tito, Italy among countless other places.”
While the changes look to immediately address misperceptions of disability on campus, reforms to the campus’ physical plant in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act are also in the works.
“This resolution was followed by Governor Malloy’s signing of the new Connecticut Law – Public Act 16-78, An Act Modernizing the Symbol of Access for Persons with Disabilities (June, 2016). New signage on campus has incorporated the new symbol in Fisk Hall and in the various parking spaces which are reserved for individuals with disabilities,” Patey and Hill wrote. “There is much work to do across campus. All of these efforts toward raising awareness and increasing access are at the core of our work and help us to minimize the barriers that students, faculty and staff may experience on campus.”