Editor, Daily Nexus,
I’d like to thank the Nexus for printing letters in the last few weeks from students with disabilities on how they are succeeding at UCSB (“Learning Disabled Find Clarity Through Project Eye-to-Eye,” Oct. 10 and “Anxiety Victim Finds Refuge in Disabled Students Program,” Oct. 12). As a student with both visible and invisible disabilities, I know it is sometimes a great challenge to openly face a disability, let alone succeed in college with one.
As Amanda Maffet pointed out, media coverage of disability issues is lacking, not only locally, but worldwide. As Sean Benison wrote last year, disability groups were left behind in the coverage of Terri Schiavo’s final days because their vocal opposition to the death of one of their own doesn’t fit the popular view of people with disabilities as ‘victims’ – as the Nexus labeled Maffet. (As Jeff Slovak’s column showed, I think the 1.8 percent of us who have made it to college deserve a little more credit than that). And while arm-wrestling contests and poker tournaments are featured frequently on ESPN and Fox Sports, the second-largest sporting event in the world — the Paralympics — gets little more than pity points on the 11 o’clock news and gets confused with the Special Olympics, which is for individuals with intellectual disabilities — as, I can tell you from personal experience, does any wheelchair sporting event. As was articulated in the movie “Murderball,” “I say this not to disparage the Special Olympics – what they do is wonderful and honorable. But we’re not there for a pat on the back. We’re there for a fucking gold medal.”
There are countless improvements to be made here at UCSB as well. Vehicles and bikes on the sidewalks endanger visually impaired students’ safety, Braille signage is lacking in many areas and Isla Vista is a serious challenge for blind or wheelchair-using students wishing to get out of the dorms. Through the efforts of the Commission on Disability Access (CODA), the Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee, Disabled Students Program and others, these things are slowly changing.
So in short, I applaud the efforts of the Nexus, Maffet and Slovak to highlight the support that disabled students can receive here at UCSB, as well as the administrators such as Gary White, acting director of the Disabled Students Program, and programs like Eye-to-Eye for providing that support. I know this will piss a lot of people off, but I thank the UCPD for their efforts to keep bikers off the sidewalks, and, as one cop pointed out, I wish there could be more funding for it. We have a long way to go for students and citizens with disabilities to be seen as equal members of society, but I have faith that we’re getting there. I encourage everyone, disabled or not, who is interested in the equality and safety of people with disabilities to get involved with the Commission on Disability Access, which meets Wednesdays at 2 p.m. in the AS building.