Guest post by Dom Bryan, friend of the library and neurodivergent and disabled student at Western Washington University. This essay is shared in their exact words:
Local Institutionalized Oppression is Western Washington University’s form of Operation
TLDR: Western is full of classists, ableists, jerks, and ambiguous policy. Western is a state-assisted institution, receiving $28 million this year in assistance from the state. This means your tax dollars go towards perpetuating a system that harms disabled bodies. Please read it.
My name is Dom Bryan. I am 26 years old. Bi-racial. Queer. Disabled. Poor. ADHD. I am a 4.0 first-gen student, who just finished my first year back in the classroom on a full financial ride. However, due to my slow progress in physical therapy, Western would rather grant me a waiver until they deem, I am no longer crippled than facilitating sensible access. My medical team assured me if I were to return to campus without any assistance, I would wind up permanently disabled. No one should have to choose between their body/health and the education they pay for.
The following stories are all true stories. However, the names have been changed to keep people’s identities safe.
“Hello, my name is Cassidy. I dropped out of college due to a heart condition. A heart condition that made traversing campus difficult. One that Western refused to accommodate.”
“Hello, my name is Zach. I have MS and use a wheelchair for my symptoms. I went from being a full time student to one class a quarter because Western banned equitable online access. They also failed to accommodate me. I was told I would be accommodated, then was informed I would not be on the first day of the Spring quarter in March of 2022. In order to get around campus, it was easier for me to ditch my wheelchair and suffer the consequences of that choice. However, dealing with the pain hasn’t been easy. I have yet to decide if I will quit pursuing college and my dream career.”
“Hello, my name is Mars. I am a faculty member that is under contract NOT an employee with tenure. I am a glorified substitute teacher. My offerings for online classes were removed from the fall registrar because I refused to teach in person. I have severe osteoporosis. They wanted to stick me on the 5 th floor. They’ve revised the buildings, removing phones from all the classrooms, and only leaving one per floor to be utilized. If I am caught on my personal phone, I am facing immediate termination. Regardless of the circumstance.”
“Hello, I am Tiffany. I still have not been offered disabled living spaces within the dorms. I almost dropped out last quarter. The only access to and from campus is a long 4-story flight of stairs or up a steep hill that is strictly for the community transit bus. This area is never de-iced.
Hello, I am Jacob. I was academically dismissed by the dean because I was hospitalized with sepsis in the middle of a quarter. As a result, my financial aid was frozen. It took 3 months after I was released from the hospital to become re-enrolled. I had to pay my tuition out of pocket for the freeze on my account. I still haven’t been reimbursed.”
Can you see a running theme? Western’s disability access committee admits they are not trained medical staff. They do not have anyone on their team with a medical background. Yet just like insurance companies, they decide what accommodations people need for their bodies. Even if those decisions conflict with medical treatments, wellness plans, and quality of life.
DISABLED BODIES ARE HUMAN BODIES
This department is ran by able-bodied and neurotypical people. They can not understand a reality where someone’s body, mind, or environment are active constraints. They can not understand a reality where someone didn’t cause injury to themselves. They can not understand that we are all one car accident, slip or fall, or violent situation away from a disabled body. We all end up disabled. So why does the institution that claims to be the most progressive, accepting, and the most diverse campus in Washington operate in this way?
Do you know what the difference is between Western and other colleges in this state? Other colleges do not lie to you about their mission, vision, and values. They are sworn to uphold these statements in order to continue their accreditation status.
What can you do?
- You can send a letter to the board of trustees, discussing your distress about this information. Providing accommodations under state law, include:
- First floor accommodations. (They say it’s too difficult to get faculty to change classrooms.)
- ADEQUATE accessible parking. (They currently lottery out their disabled spots. They have more disabled students than spots. For the low price of $99 a quarter, you can sometimes park in disabled parking. If the spots are full you are to park in the nearest empty spot. My particular building? They only have 2 spots. 2.)
- Equitable remote access. (While they do have some remote classes offered this fall quarter. They have effectively priced out poor folks. They have attached an additional $230.00 per credit fee on top of base tuition. That’s an additional $1,100-$1,800 in fees per class. Fee waivers are not available.) The fact they are still offering access means that they are capable of offering access. However, they are choosing to create the barriers they swear standing against.
- ADA access, signage, and bathrooms. (Some bathrooms the ADA stall isn’t large enough to accommodate a wheelchair user. They have to use the bathroom with the stall door open.)
- If students have to pay this high permit fee for parking, there should be guaranteed parking for disabled students. Just like an apartment complex. If I pay for the parking spot, I can always park there.
- If you can offer online access to the highest bidders? You can offer it to all.
- Disabled bodies are human bodies. No one should be forced to use the bathroom with the door open because you refuse to renovate the stalls to provide privacy for those in wheelchairs.
- They continue to run up the clock and discourage disabled students. Without any options students feel it is necessary to drop out.
- They give the DAC $1.2 million in funding every year. Of that funding $800,000 is use for salaries. Leaving less than a quarter to provide students with accommodations. These numbers were pulled directly from the year actuals/budget. They claim to be broke yet, they have 32 million sitting in reserves. To qualify as a reserve, fund a business must be able to access the cash asset in 60-90 days. Not to mention, they have large profits.