Including students with disabilities in diversity conversation is lacking


State Hornet Staff

Diversity has recently become a buzzword at Sacramento State.

Sac State is billed as a diverse campus community, and the proof is in the students’ pudding. The topic of diversity is often narrowed down to select categories and talking points, such as racial and religious diversity. The focus on diversity, seems to lack in including those with disabilities.

“Because my hearing impairment is not so readily visible, most people assume that I have full hearing ability,” said Melissa Bardo, the president of Associated Students, Inc. “And so this means that many people don’t understand how my impairment affects my everyday decisions.”

Bardo went into further detail on how her hearing impairment impacts her daily life: She always sits at the front of the classroom; asks “what?” frequently; use subtitles every time she watches TV; doesnt usually go to events like plays or performances; [and] can usually only understand people if she is looking directly at them when they are talking.

Bardo also suggested that fellow students practice compassion and understanding when it comes to peers with disabilities.

“For example, oftentimes there are microphones at events in large or noisy rooms but some people choose not to use them, instead saying, ‘Can you hear me if I talk like this?’ This can be incredibly frustrating for hearing-impaired folks because it is not just a preference for us – it is a necessity. And while using a microphone makes some people uncomfortable, being the one person in a room to stand up and say ‘I can’t hear you’ is incredibly difficult for a hearing-impaired student,” said Bardo.

Even within the disabled student population at Sac State, there is a wide range of disabilities. The Services to Students with Disabilities department provides accommodations for students with disabilities such as deafness/hard-of-hearing, blindness/visual impairment, learning disabilities, physical disabilities– such as those necessitating the use of a wheelchair– and much more.

“I have a genetic disorder which affects my vision,” said Jessica Yu, a senior majoring in women’s studies and minoring in economics and education. “It’s called Leber’s congenital amaurosis … I have five percent peripheral vision … and can see about this much [spaces her index finger and thumb approximately less than an inch apart].”

Another notable student on campus is Kelly Whitcomb, who uses a wheelchair and advocates for greater accessibility and student safety on campus.

“There are several facets surrounding accessibility, administration and student safety,” said Whitcomb.

To find out more about these individuals, read the second article in the series in next week’s edition of the State Hornet.