I’m a letter writer. (Not in the wonderful personal-letter sense, much to my personal sadness, but in the “trying to accomplish something through quietly angry letter-writing” sense.) I write a lot of letters about disability & accessibility issues, to people like doctors who think every appointment is Show & Tell Disability Hour, to allegedly accessible transportation providers, to people who insist that they can’t be accessible because they’ll lose their historic plaque (a lie)… You know, letters. Sometimes these letters are effective, but I don’t feel much shock to tell you that I rarely get responses to them.
One of the reasons I write letters, though, is to hold people accountable.
Earlier this school year for me, I was personally assured by the president of my university that they took issues of disability & accessibility very seriously on my campus. This is, of course, utter shite. The meet & greet for my discipline was down a flight of stairs and then up another set of stairs, and they told me that anyone in a wheelchair could be carried in. I’ve been told by the Accessibility Center that they can only deal with students with disabilities directly – I can’t go to them as a student and get help making an event accessible if I’m not registered with them as a student with a disability. And, of course, I get the same responses when I talk to people: incomprehension and stares.
Today, I got an email from the Graduate Studies Office at my university, directing me towards a website for a– Actually, I don’t know. Here’s part of the email:
This conference is a chance to join some of Atlantic Canada’s leaders and youth activists to shape the future of [our university] and your faculties. For more information or to register, visit brainsforchange.ca. Registration deadline is Friday, January 15th.
This initiative is being spearheaded by the [University] Student Union, with support from [the University]’s Deans, and senior administration – a truly unprecedented level of interdisciplinary collaboration.
(I don’t know if my university self-googles, hence the redactions there. You can tell where I attend if you click on the link.]
I can’t read the link. Don can’t read the link. I set my screen reader on it, and it can’t even find the content, let alone read the link.
Every one of the groups of people named in the above paragraphs have assured me at some point that my university takes accessibility issues seriously.
So, I am writing another email, because maybe this time it will make a difference. It has a few times in the past. Not often, sadly. But maybe this time it will make a difference?
I would love to learn more about this conference, in order to decide if it appropriate for me to attend. Unfortunately, the website linked is an accessibility nightmare. I can’t even read it. My screen reader can’t read it outloud for me.
University administration and the executive officers of our Student Union keep telling me that disability & accessibility are a priority on campus. I want to believe them, but it becomes difficult when a conference that’s allegedly about engaging students doesn’t even attempt to be accessible to all of them.
I know that whoever gets this email isn’t responsible for the website, and I do believe the university wants to do more and be better about these sorts of issues. Is there any way I can get the information on the website emailed to me so I can look at it? And could you tell me who created the website? I think they should consider consulting with the Accessibility Center about web design in the future.
I’ll keep people posted about it, but I do wonder: Do you write letters about this sort of stuff? The biggest thing I’m told all the damned time is that somehow no one has ever complained before. This, of course, comes with that winning implication, that I’m just a whiner who should shut up.
I don’t think that my letter writing is going to make everything awesome, but I do think it means people may pay more attention to the next complaint.