Knox prides itself in being incredibly welcoming and inclusive with its claim that we are “one community.” However, we as an institution fail to include several groups of people in that community, by means of social exclusion as well as physical exclusion. Knox should make more of an effort to create an accessible campus for those dealing with physical disability.
There are several easy ways that Knox can provide more accessibility on campus that would not take much effort or resources, especially regarding housing.
Currently, most of the dorm buildings have multiple floors with no elevator — the one hall that does, Hamblin, prioritizes housing upperclassmen. Even if someone with a physical disability can score a room on the first floor of a freshman dorm, they still need to get to another floor to do laundry. Hamblin, on the other hand, has laundry on every floor. This is an easy fix for the administration. Allowing students with physical disabilities to live in Hamblin as an underclassman would make their lives that much easier.
Another area that the college lacks is support groups. There is currently no support group for students with physical disabilities or with chronic illnesses, as there is for students dealing with mental illness or trauma. Having a support group at the counseling center or elsewhere would create a trusted network between professionals and students alike. This would also provide a forum for students to discuss their own experiences, and ways to make life at Knox easier.
Students with physical disabilities face a number of issues that able-bodied folk do not have to deal with. Structures that we think of as normal today, like stairs or sidewalks, are all accommodations not too different from the accommodations some disabled students seek.
We call upon able-bodied folk to use their voices to advocate for their physically disabled friends, to be sensitive to their struggles and to seek to understand the ways in which our current social structure creates more disability than it needs. It is not okay to assume that everybody has the same abilities, or to hold everybody to the same standard. Some physical disabilities are also “invisible,” leading to students being disbelieved, making their day-to-day life all the more difficult. We can not assume whether or not somebody has a disability, and if someone says they do, we must believe and accommodate them.
By neglecting to make Knox more accessible to physically disabled students, the administration marginalizes and excludes a valuable population of students who are left oftentimes without resources. There truly are no downsides. Knox cannot call itself an inclusive campus if it does not include students with physical disabilities, and it should work toward this in the future.