Negative edit

I find it ironic that the day you headlined “NIU works to cease hatred” on the front page of The Northern Star (Jan. 28, 1992), you also wrote an editorial fueling negative attitudes toward people who have disabilities (p. 12). The implication of your editorial and accompanying cartoon is that making NIU accessible would result in cancellation of needed classes. It’s “them” (students with disabilities) against “us” (other students, who want and deserve to get into needed classes). It also seems from your editorial that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is to blame for this nasty situation.

For the record, NIU (as an institution receiving substantial federal funds) has been legally required to be accessible to people who have disabilities since the passage of Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For many years, NIU has been finding ways to creatively make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities without causing “undue hardship” to any programs within the university. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 extends protection of the civil rights of people who have disabilities when dealing with other, no federally funded, institutions and companies. Like Title V of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require unreasonable accommodations which would cause “undue hardship” such as cancellation of classes!

You said in your editorial, “It would be great to make life as easy as possible for these truly special students.” The goal of accessibility-related legislation is not to “make life as easy as possible,” but to provide equal access to opportunities and resources.

You also mentioned that “only a small percentage of NIU is disabled. NIU is here primarily to deliver education to as many students as it can.” I am seriously concerned about the implication of your statement … is it really O.K. to discriminate against members of a minority group just because there are more people in the majority? Is it O.K. to discriminate against people who are Hispanic, or gay, or Jewish, or black, because they are not in the majority at NIU?

The “small percentage” of people with disabilities at NIU includes some of our most OUTSTANDING students, staff members, and faculty members. Discriminating against these individuals wouldn’t result in opening up more math classes at NIU, but would result in a serious loss of talent and contribution to this university.

Chris Reid

Assistant Professor

Department of Communicative Disorders