Every year, student government hopefuls preach similar slogans about inclusivity and change to the Georgetown University Student Association structure. Our future leaders almost always pledge a commitment to represent the forgotten — to crusade for the marginalized.
As the outgoing chair of the GUSA Accessibility Policy Team, I have worked in accessibility policy at Georgetown for the entirety of my three years here, serving as chair for two of them.
My predecessor conducted yearly reviews of the accessibility platforms presented by each GUSA presidential candidate in the hopes of determining which had a genuine interest in advocating for Georgetown’s arguably most-neglected minority community. For the first time, I will publish this brief report directly to THE HOYA.
Kamar Mack (COL ’19) and Jessica Andino (COL ’18):
Beginning with the first to respond to my email for comments, Kamar Mack and Jessica Andino show clear enthusiasm towards accessibility and several insightful ideas, including guides and information sessions to teach students and administrators alike about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other ideas, such as accessible restroom doors, are wonderful, too.
Additionally, their understanding of accessibility as both a policy initiative and an identity initiative is revolutionary. The team suggests speaker events, presumably in support of continuing the Disability Studies Lecture Series, and pledges to improve visibility of issues surrounding accessibility. Further, all members of the team have signed the petition in support of the disability studies minor.
Unfortunately, despite its obvious fervor and excitement to learn, Mack and Andino’s team lacks a bit of realism. Promises such as a complete overhaul of the entire current swipe system, while potentially beneficial, are entirely unfeasible. Notions such as an “Accessibility 101 Handbook,” without explanation, are vague and fruitless.
The team could also benefit from further research into the issues it seeks to address, as some of its platform points already exist as projects — for example, the recent push by students and facilities to secure ADA-accessible golf carts. Though its passion and heart is clear, the team could stand to have more polished and achievable ideas.
Overall Grade: B+
Garet Williams (COL ’18) and Habon Ali (SFS ’18):
Garet Williams and Habon Ali have released a platform that is both informed and realistic. They demonstrate a clear understanding of existing needs and projects, a dedication to see these initiatives through and a desire to expand upon them.
Additionally, the team suggests a much-needed emphasis on accessibility in master planning and construction conversations, which are the most impactful decisions on campus, which, regretfully, our students often overlook.
The team provides a vision — the achievement of the long-fought-for Disability Culture Center. Accessibility inclusivity is a combination of academic policy, physical barrier policy and identity, something Williams and Ali appear to embrace in their platform. Again, all members of the team have signed the petition in support of the disability studies minor.
However, it is worth mentioning that the novel ideas and sheer passion found in Mack and Andino’s platform are not entirely echoed in Williams and Ali’s. A genuine dedication to accessibility is evident but the eagerness and “fresh” proposals are absent. While Williams and Ali provide a completely achievable platform, it could stand to evolve.
Nevertheless, their clear knowledge of and experience with the issues — as well as their continued outreach — are more than enough evidence of their support for accessibility. The platform in its current state is great; it stands to become spectacular.
Overall Grade: A-
John Matthews (COL ’18) and Nick Matz (COL ’18):
Lastly is the review of Matthews and Matz, GUSA outsiders and financial pioneers.
While they provide ideas on business models to improve nightlife, audits for clubs and an end to certain student-athlete drug testing, their brief 10-point platform has no mention of accessibility or other imperative issues faced by students on our campus.
One does not hesitate to question the sincerity with which such a team would actually promote the interests of the entire student body, especially in terms of advocating for accessibility.
When emailed for comment, Matthews and Matz did not respond. Upon further contact via Facebook personally, the team’s only comment was to question the fiscal responsibility of implementing a disability studies minor. Once their concerns were addressed, they pledged their full support; however, neither candidate has signed the petition.
Overall Grade: D
It is worth mentioning that this accessibility review is given under my opinion as chair of accessibility policy and does not represent that of any community. Nonetheless we, the able-bodied population of Georgetown, often vote every year in complete ignorance of the struggles that our peers face. Let us not continue that ignorance this season; let us not enable future neglect. Vote wisely, Georgetown.
Danielle Zamalin is a junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. She is the outgoing chair of the Georgetown University Student Association Accessibility Policy Team.