Students share their experience with accessibility


State Hornet Staff

The diverse community of disabled students at Sacramento State is speaking out in order to bring a new meaning to the term “disabled.”

“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].”

On campus, Yu utilizes a service dog named Whit, as well as tools in the AIRC’s High Tech Center, such as a converter that turns printed textbooks into audiobooks. Through Services for Students With Disabilities, Yu receives services like to double time for test taking and note takers.

“Sac State is totally an accessible campus for me,” said Yu. “I love it. [Did you know that] they have those yellow strips on the ground for blind people who walk with canes?”

With today’s technological advances, Yu actively participates in academic and social pursuits, such as tutoring elementary schoolers and staying active in her sorority, Kappa Delta. Despite this, Yu wants to remind fellow students that assistance and understanding is sometimes still needed and always appreciated.

“I guess it goes back to people not thinking I have a disability. My guide dog – he is my eyes, so if I ask people for help, they look at me funny like, ‘You don’t need help.’ Also, people just cannot understand why pointing somewhere does not help,” said Yu.

Another Sac State student working to not only educate others about disabilities but also to improve accessibility at Sac State is Kelly Whitcomb, a junior majoring in social science.

Whitcomb, a former emergency services responder, suffered a debilitating neck injury at work ten years ago after providing her services in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Whitcomb’s neck injury, paired with numerous other health and genetic issues, has required her to use a powered wheelchair and assistive technology in order to complete her studies at Sac State.

“The accommodations and resources provided through SSWD have been key for my attempts at success here as a student,” Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb said there are many obstacles preventing not only her but also other physically disabled students at Sac State from fully being able to access and be comfortable on the campus.

“I encounter several bumps [on campus] and roll over gaps between sections of cement, … which provides several shocks of pain to my spine. I try to go to class, …more bumps and an ‘accessible’ door to the building that isn’t working,” said Whitcomb.

Sac State also employs faculty with disabilities. One such notable faculty member on campus is William Vicars, a professor of deaf studies. Vicars won the Outstanding Teaching Award at the Faculty Senate awards ceremony on Thursday, March 17.

“I walked away from a private sector career paying considerably more specifically so I could come teach and work in an environment where being deaf is not an issue,” Vicars said. “What could be done to further improve the working environment, though, would be for the administration to allow paid staff leave time or other reimbursement to take American Sign Language classes.”