Intolerance fueled

How would you, as an intelligent, talented individual, like to be accepted to the university of your choice, and then arrive to class to find that the administration chose to lock you, personally, out of the class building? Or, how would you feel if you arrived in the class you had been waiting to get for a couple semesters and found that the teacher and all the students spoke in some language you did not comprehend, or that the tests were going to be based on three texts that you were not given access to?

It was interesting that on the day when The Northern Star headlines read “NIU Works to Cease Hatred,” that the editorial for the day implies that trying to make campus accessible for disabled students is robbing other students of classes and programs. This editorial seems to fuel intolerance of yet another group of people, those with disabilities, by placing blame on them for a situation on campus that they have no control over.

I understand that students are frustrated with their inability to get the classes they need. Students, staff and faculty alike are frustrated with the problems that have resulted from the state budget cuts. No one is happy, but to suggest that money spent on making this campus more accessible results in the problems we face today is irresponsible, and for lack of a better word, ridiculous. Money allotted to making this campus accessible is a very small part of the “pie,” and this campus is not extremely accessible because it has been a small part of the “pie” for many years.

Many campuses, including NIU, have problems with accessibility. Historically, persons with disabilities were not even considered when most of the buildings were built. It has only been in the past fifteen to twenty years that there has been a real recognition that this group has a right to attend higher education institutions like everyone else. People with disabilities have intelligence; they work, they pay taxes, and denying that they should have accessibility to higher education is regressing to times when they were believed to be stupid, possessed, or evil.

As for “tightening” their belts like the rest of the campus, disabled students have been doing that for years. Unlike the rest of the campus population, they have not had access to public transportation whenever they needed it. If the weather was bad, a student could get transportation to classes if it was prearranged. It was not so easy to just go somewhere on the spur of the moment. They do not have access to all buildings, so must plan their schedules far in advance; they must ask to have classes moved when necessary (and fight student and staff resistance when it is inconvenient for them); they may not be able to add a class during add/drop because of inability to move the class, get taped books in time, or have access to an interpreter; they may sit in a class and not understand a thing the teacher is saying if their interpreter is ill; they can trip and fall in front of a group of peers because the sidewalk is in disrepair; they have to make a decision to go to a special event days in advance so that they can request an interpreter, and then maybe can’t attend if an interpreter can’t be found, etc., etc., etc.

Realistically, NIU will probably never be a “shiny, happy utopia where everyone held hands and danced and sung,” but we can continue to try and make it a place where anyone that is qualified can take advantage of the education given here. I also hope that the Northern Star editors will think before writing such generalized and insensitive editorials. Please take responsibility for helping the university community become more tolerable, not less so, of the many differing groups on campus.

Nancy J. Kasinski


Services for Hearing Impaired