Dear Chancellor Milliken,
It was wonderful to meet you on Friday at the University Student Senate awards dinner and have the opportunity to bring up an issue that I have been advocating for a couple of years. I am a PhD candidate in the Environmental Psychology program at the Graduate Center. I am also a student with a disability.
When I matriculated at the Graduate Center, Sharon Lerner at the Student Affairs office was able to connect me with other students who showed me how to use some of the technologies available at the Graduate Center. While this has been very helpful, the technology can only be accessed and utilized on the computers at the Graduate Center. Students with disabilities, especially those with mobility issues, at times find it difficult to get out of bed, let alone to get to Midtown Manhattan. When the tools that we need to do our work are anchored to the Graduate Center, this slows down our work.
I have requested and advocated for personal, home-use versions of these technologies so that students with disabilities have the tools they need to complete their degrees as an accommodation to the challenges they face in getting to the Graduate Center. When I brought this issue up to Ms. Lerner, she explained to me that there is not enough funding to be able to provide home-use versions to students, that “if we buy it for one student we would have to buy it for all students.” I do not know how many students are requesting assistive technology to be used away from the Graduate Center, as this is confidential information, but this is auxiliary to the matter at hand.
Accommodations, such as assistive technology, are a matter of equity of opportunity and social justice. We encourage students to progress diligently through their programs, and support all students with due regard to their capacities. Providing students with disabilities the tools that they need without hedging on whether they are able to get to the Graduate Center conforms with the spirit of supporting student success without discrimination. I ask that you look into the matter of financial resources for meeting the needs of students with disabilities, specifically at the matter of assistive technology funding for off-campus use, and see to it that the necessary funds are made available so that students with disabilities will be accommodated.
Jennifer Tang, M.A., M.Phil.