Georgetown University works to create an environment where all students, including members of our community with disabilities, can learn and thrive.
Through our research, scholarship and community standards, the university community seeks to live out its Jesuit values each day. One of these values is cura personalis, a profound care and responsibility for one another grounded in individualized attention and focused on the unique circumstances and concerns of each member of our community. Similarly, our value of community in diversity encourages us to walk in solidarity with others, embracing each individual’s value and dignity.
Georgetown lives these values through our shared university life. This includes the relationship between educators and students, and our institutional commitment to a variety of resources and programs that support our students, including our Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, & Affirmative Action (IDEAA) and our Academic Resource Center (ARC), among many others. We are also guided by an inclusive and responsive pedagogy that guides instruction in our classrooms.
In light of that, we found it important to respond to The Hoya’s recent story regarding disability accommodations for students, which we believe presented an unbalanced perspective on the university’s commitment to supporting students with disabilities. Federal privacy law prevents the university and its faculty members from responding in any detail to the claims made in the article, even though we are aware that multiple faculty members dispute the characterizations presented in this piece.
We have a system in place to enable the smooth implementation of academic accommodations, which involves the engagement of the ARC with individual students and faculty. The ARC strives to create an inclusive environment that meets the diverse needs of students through consultations, facilitation of reasonable accommodations and support for the university partners, including members of our faculty, in implementing these accommodations.
Since every accommodation is individualized based on the needs of the student and the nature of the courses in which they are enrolled, students and faculty members must work together to ensure that both the accommodation and course requirements are honored. Students and faculty members are encouraged to contact the ARC if they have questions or concerns about the implementation of specific accommodations. If students have concerns about discrimination on the basis of disability, the university has clear policies and grievance procedures to investigate and address such concerns through the IDEAA office.
While academic accommodations are important considerations, we know that there is more work ahead of us to ensure that members of our community with disabilities can thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
With a campus that is more than 200 years old, we have faced a number of accessibility challenges over the years, but we are continuing facility enhancements across campus to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the past five years, we have completed more than 20 projects to improve the physical accessibility of our campuses. Our ADA Accessibility Advisory Group receives input from members of our community, including students and leaders from the ARC and IDEAA, in order to create an inventory of interior and exterior projects that will increase accessibility.
Over the past several years, we have also enhanced the accessibility of our digital properties, including establishing a new technology policy and hiring a full-time Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility coordinator. We also began the hiring process for a new position, associate director of the Georgetown Disability Cultural Initiative. The hiring of this position will kick off the Disability Cultural Initiative, which will aim to support, educate and empower members of our community with disabilities of all cultures, races, sexual orientations, genders and ages.
The initiative will also celebrate disabled people’s achievements and advocate for a climate that promotes social justice and is free of barriers and discrimination. We hope to build the foundation for the eventual establishment of a robust Disability Cultural Center (DCC) that will provide a central hub for integrating educational, social and support programming for disabled students, faculty, staff, allies and people interested in learning more about disability.
Georgetown is committed to ensuring that our campus is accessible and inclusive, both inside and outside the classroom, and we will continue to work to be a place where all our students can learn and thrive.
Dr. Jeanne Lord is the interim Vice President for Student Affairs at Georgetown.
Dr. Rohan Williamson is the Vice Provost for Education on Georgetown’s Main Campus.