Do you have a disability? Do you have a friend who does? We are looking for students with chronic or mental health conditions, visible, invisible, auditory, visual or learning disabilities, or something totally different, to take our survey. Here’s why:
For the past several months, a group of passionate student activists have been designing a study to document the experiences and perspectives of students with disabilities. Our goal is to not only better understand how students with disabilities navigate University life, but to advocate for changes that will create a more accessible, equitable and welcoming campus community. We are appealing to all students with disabilities. Spend a few minutes taking our survey — share your story and together we can work to make the University a better place for students with disabilities.
Our motivation has been guided primarily by the absence of data describing this significant demographic of students — those with disabilities. The University knows how many students are registered with the Services for Students with Disabilities — more than 1,400 — but it does not necessarily know or understand what their challenges and concerns are. Are students satisfied with the accommodations provided by the University? Is there a climate of tolerance and inclusion for people of different ability identities? Can students with disabilities easily navigate the University bureaucracy and access essential resources? Do students with disabilities feel comfortable “outing’” themselves to professors and GSIs? How many students hide their disabilities for fear of stigma? These are just some of the questions we were asking, to which we could not find any clear answers.
Through informal conversations and formal focus groups, we have begun to understand that while students with disabilities have unique and valid concerns, they aren’t being asked for their feedback. And many students with sincere grievances have a difficult time finding suitable recourse. We hope to change that. Our team, the Disability Affairs Commission of the Michigan Student Assembly, has created a survey to provide an outlet for students with disabilities to express their satisfaction, dissatisfaction or ambivalence. We hope to capture in our survey the ways in which the University is serving students with disabilities, as well as the ways it is failing them. But we know that in order to approach representatives of the University with any findings that describe what students with disabilities are thinking and feeling, we need to have a sufficient sample size. Put differently, in order to make an impact, in order to advocate for change, we need to show the University that students with disabilities demand to have their voices heard.
Which is why we are appealing to you. Whether you openly identify as having a disability or keep it to yourself, whether you are registered with SSD or not, whether you are satisfied with your experience or think things can be improved around campus, we hope that you will take a few minutes to complete our survey. With your anonymous responses, we will have the data necessary to identify and advocate for the specific changes that will most benefit students with disabilities.
Make your voice heard by visiting http://tiny.cc/DisabilitySurvey.
Robbie Dembo is an LSA senior. He is a member of the Disability Affairs Committee of the Michigan Student Assembly.