LEVEL’s D.A.D. Allows Students to Discuss Accessibility Concerns on Campus

Catherine Browne

On Tuesday evening, LEVEL held a Disabilities Awareness Discussion for students to attend and share accessibility concerns around campus. The executives of LEVEL facilitated this event, and many students attended with open minds to share their own personal concerns and listen to the worries of others. 

On campus, LEVEL is comprised of a group of students who work to level the playing field for students with different abilities. LEVEL fosters its club on the idea of inclusion as it encourages the Villanova community to communicate and create lasting relationships with everyone on campus. This year, the group organized an annual Disabilities Awareness Discussion, also referred to as D.A.D., to give students the ability to let their voices be heard about their accessibility concerns and the presence of inclusion across campus. 

The discussion was facilitated by the co-chairs Anna Jankowski, Jessie Williamson and Zac Tipton, who sat among a large circle of attendees. The facilitators prepared a few guiding questions that they asked the group and created a comfortable environment by compiling group rules of respect and acceptance for everyone to feel safe to share their thoughts. 

Jankowski began the conversation by asking the group, “What type of facilities or activities should be more accessible on campus?” In response, students shared their thoughts on this issue. For example, many believe that stadiums are not accessible to those in a wheelchair, as they are separated from the rest of the student section. Other areas of concern, such as Belle Air Terrace, Sheehan Hall and Sullivan Hall, lack elevators or other easily accessible ways for individuals with physical disabilities to access. 

Students also expressed their frustration towards a lack of railings across campus and the incorrect advertisement of other buildings that claim to be accessible. For example, a student shared her own experience of her parents being unable to enter her dorm room on move-in day because the doorway was too small for a wheelchair to pass through. These are only a few examples of the many stories that attendees shared about their own concerns and stories about the lack of accessibility across campus. 

The discussion also included a time to speak about students’ feelings towards navigating the social climate at the University and whether or not it feels inclusive. Students shared their honest opinions that organizations such as LEVEL, Special Olympics and Best Buddies are the first experiences that some students had to meet individuals who have a disability, which many believed “speaks for itself.” One of the co-chairs did admit that as LEVEL is the club for “advocacy and accessibility,” there are many challenges that arise that prohibit people from seeing a complete change being made. That being said, if it is hard for the clubs that put all of their efforts towards making a change in this aspect, it is much more difficult for other clubs to realize their lack of inclusivity. Students opened up about some places they felt a lack of inclusivity within other clubs and organizations around campus. 

The facilitators introduced questions from a survey they sent before the discussion which encouraged a conversation about the assumptions that others may have towards a person with a disability and whether or not they want to be “fixed.” Additionally, conversations about accommodations for those with disabilities, such as needing extra time or a scribe, arose. Specifically, some situations included professors who were unaware of the proper protocol centered around academic accommodations. It was discussed how further steps were needed to be taken to properly accommodate students who are granted those abilities. By sharing these stories and personal opinions, people were able to hear about the concerns of their fellow classmates and ponder ways to make a change.   

Later, President of LEVEL and one of the co-chairs of the event, Williamson, was asked about her thoughts on the discussion, as she believes that “these types of conversations are so incredibly necessary in order to facilitate change.” She continued to explain how “excited and inspired [she felt] to see so many people interested and invested [in] making that change happen. The way so many students opened up and shared their thoughts and feelings was amazing.” 

All of the hard work and dedication that Williamson, along with the other people who allowed for this event to happen, including the head of LEVEL Greg Hannah, was very evident in this discussion. As an attendee, the environment felt safe, comfortable and accepting. It seemed as though it gave a lot of students the chance to be heard, which they may not find anywhere else. It opened people’s eyes to some of the obstacles that their classmates face daily that some may not be aware of. This environment gave students a chance to listen and to be heard and give them the opportunity to make the changes needed on campus to allow everyone to make the best of their experience here at the University.