For most Georgetown students, the seemingly ever-present maze of construction on campus is little more than an inconvenient eyesore. Yet, this labyrinth of barricades and detours poses a substantial obstacle to many disabled students navigating Georgetown’s fractured campus. The university is responsible for accommodating the needs of all Hoyas and must make conscientious policy decisions during future construction and reconstruction projects to uphold its promise of an inclusive campus community.
University President John J. DeGioia acknowledged the university’s failure to cultivate a disability-friendly campus during a conversation with The Hoya last Thursday (“Q&A: DeGioia on Faith, A Campus Reconstructed,” The Hoya, Sept. 25, 2015). There is no excuse for not being able to accommodate. We know what our responsibilities are to respect a number of our community,” DeGioia said.
A culture of inclusivity could begin with replacing those doors in Lauinger Library that are not disability-friendly. This change would be a meaningful and feasible first step toward the goal, as would ensuring the availability of wheelchair-accessible tables in popular study spaces.
Cultivating true disability justice at Georgetown, however, extends far beyond the implementation of these fixtures. In January 2014, disabled student activists prompted an online conversation using the hashtag #BDGU, or “Being Disabled at Georgetown University.” A large number of disabled students lent their voices to the discussion, with many choosing to highlight the necessity of cultural rather than physical, structural transformation at Georgetown. It is important to note that disability at Georgetown does not just refer to those with a mobility disability, but also includes mental or psychiatric disabilities.
Several students expressed frustration with professors who failed to remember their accommodations throughout the semester. Consequently, many also advocated for the creation of a disability cultural center on campus.
The grassroots Disability Justice for Georgetown campaign is devoted to the creation of a disability cultural center similar to those that already exist on the campuses of schools like the University of Minnesota and Syracuse University. This center would serve to facilitate conversation and awareness about disability at Georgetown.
Georgetown’s commitment to upholding diversity on campus cannot mean ignoring the needs of others. Both structural and cultural changes are necessary to ensure the full inclusion of all students as respected members of the campus community.