Please Baylor, keep accommodations accessible to those who need them

Summer Merkle | Cartoonist

Here. Now. The world is accessible — at least the most accessible it has ever been.

When the pandemic hit, accommodations disabled folks had been requesting for years were established immediately. As soon as able-bodied folks were in need of them, society’s number one mission was creating them.

Online schooling and working from home were no longer regarded as the request of the slacker, but simply alternatives in an unconventional reality.

Those living with chronic illness, chronic pain or disability are living in a state of unconventional reality — always.

Being ill is an individual experience for each person with individual struggles. It would be careless to generalize these struggles into oversimplified examples. The common ground, however, is in the unusual challenges daily living presents.

Living in a dysfunctional body means that in order to live well, self-evaluation and prioritization are musts. Social norms, such as working a nine-to-five or sitting in academic classes all day, are often unattainable when enjoying life is placed on the list of priorities.

And that is okay. Enjoying life should always be on our list of priorities, far above meeting the expectations of strenuous, exhausting, draining social expectations.

Ill individuals are capable of accomplishing truly amazing things and contributing to society in invaluable ways. Even more so when proper accommodations are accessible.

Society approached managing the challenges of the pandemic with equal accessibility for all — accessibility that was denied from so many for decades in a posture of anti-equity.

We have the accommodations in place. No further action is needed. Simply do not take them away from those who need them. To do so would be catastrophic for the progress that has been made.

From a local stance, what would this look like for Baylor?

With the groundwork of extensive networking already in place — and the knowledge that working from home does not impact work-ethic or productivity — in an act of establishing equitable work environments for students and faculty, those who request accommodation should be allowed to continue working in a remote environment.

Those who benefit from taking online classes or working from home should not be thrown back into the struggles of pre-COVID-19 life completely unnecessarily.

For students, the solution might not be creating true online course sections — because that would simply isolate this minority group — but rather, provide an OALA accommodation to take in-person classes through a fully virtual or hybrid format.

Hear us clearly on this, these accommodations should be provided on an individual basis with the utmost consideration placed on the recommendations from the individual and what would be most helpful for them.

Earlier in the semester the news of the suspension of the OALA shuttles circulated campus and students came together in support of the community who relied on these accommodations.

But the OALA shuttle is not the most helpful accommodation Baylor could be providing.

The shuttle schedule adds significant time onto both ends of attending classes and causes students to waste valuable energy transferring between multiple forms of transportation. When weather situations create unsafe conditions to drive a golf cart, students are left stranded on the opposite side of campus from their car or bus stop.

In addition, the shuttle only provides rides to classes and not anywhere else on campus. These students do not have the same campus experiences as others because their accessibility on campus is not the same.

For students who are able to drive, a much more helpful accommodation would be greater parking privileges on campus.

Students have asked about this sort of accommodation for years and Baylor has not responded.

This is one example of a simple way campus could be improved to be a more equitable environment for disabled and able-bodied students.

Moving forward, the voices of these students must be heard. Their recommendations must be taken into account when creating accommodations.

Baylor, creating an OALA accommodation for students who wish to continue with online education would be a great improvement for our campus.

Please show disabled students that they are valued. Please continue to provide them with the accommodations that have been so helpful to them, even after the pandemic is over with.

When releasing the fall 2021 course schedule, please take these things into consideration. To do so would be to the great benefit of so many.