For your Tool-kit: Letter to my University Residence Coordinator

I’m on a variety of mailing lists dedicated to people with disabilities across Canada, and students are looking for university information. This can vary from what services are offered through Student Accessibility Services, how accessible a campus is, and what residence options they have available.

I only learned two days ago, by chance, that my university offers on-campus accommodations for (some) students with mobility-related disabilities. This information is not available on their website.

So, I drafted an email about it, and I thought it may be useful for others to adapt to their needs.

Dear [Residence Coordinator]

I was very surprised to hear that there are options for students with physical disabilities to live on campus at [Uni]. It was indicated to me that many of the residences at [Uni] have a room set aside on every floor that is larger than most, to accommodate mobility aids, and a private washroom with grip bars. I was very happy to learn of this, although it is not something I would now be able to take advantage of.

I’m writing because I think that this information, along with other information that would be relevant to students with disabilities coming to [Uni], should be available on the Residence website. A search through the Residence site does not bring up any references to students with disabilities or disability-related accommodations.

As well, [Person I spoke to] was unable to tell me about other accommodations that might be necessary for students with disabilities. For example, what policies are in place for students who work with service animals? Is there a way to adapt “general” rooms so that students who are Deaf can get visual alerts for alarms rather than relying on someone else to fetch them in case of an emergency? I understand from the website that [Uni] can accommodate vegan & vegetarian meal plans. I suspect that [Uni] can also accommodate food allergies or intolerances, but I feel this should be highlighted as part of the meal plan in a similar way to vegan* options.

As a student who is affected by disability, I am required to do a lot of advocating for myself and other people with disabilities. Frankly, one gets tired of having to navigate through levels of website to find out information, and I know I’m not the only student who has chosen to assume that, if information for students with disabilities isn’t available easily, then there probably isn’t any. I think making a section of the Residence website discussing explicitly what residences can accommodate students with disabilities, what is required to take advantage of these residences, what services [Uni] is able to provide to assist students with disabilities who wish to live in Residence, and a specific contact for students with disabilities to discuss any additional accommodations required would be very helpful. As well, contacting the Student Accessibility Services department and having them put a link to this information on their website would make it even easier for students with disabilities to know that [Uni] residence halls are happy to accept them.

Sincerely,

[Me!]

Feel free to use & adapt this letter for your needs.

By 18 March, 2010.    Uncategorized  , , ,  



3 Comments

  1. This must be my ignorance or privilege, but I assumed that of course any university would have on-campus housing for students with physical disabilities. I’d be surprised to find a university where that wasn’t the case.

    But, again, that’s an assumption from my ignorance and privilege.

  2. QLH, I’m pretty sure many (possibly even most) universities do have some accommodations in place — but those accommodations may not be adequate, and/or display/present/publicize the accommodations appropriately.

    For example, the dorm I lived in while in college did have one wheelchair accessible room on the first floor. However, the laundry room for the dorm was narrow with stacked washers and dryers, rendering it not so friendly for use by people in wheelchairs (or, probably, people who used walkers or some other mobility aids). Additionally, though the dorm itself had 3 floors, there was no elevator, meaning that stairs were the only option for getting to the study lounge on the second floor or the community rec room/computer workstations on the basement level. (Not to mention the totally reasonable desire to visit friends who might not live on the ground floor.)

    The dorm next to mine was older, larger, and did have two elevators. It also had community bathrooms and showers, with one wheelchair accessible stall (clarification: one toilet stall and one shower stall) per floor. Which is all fine and good, except that these stalls were regularly used by everyone* “because they [were] bigger.”

    * This is not to suggest that nobody other than people who use wheelchairs should have been using those stalls. I’m sure there were a number of other students who had a need for them as well, and they deserve to have those needs met. However, from my observations, so many people were using them that I think some were more likely doing it out of convenience — “hey, big toilet stall — I can change clothes!” — “hey, big shower stall — I can shave my vulva!” — and at the expense of people who could not (easily) choose to use other stalls.

  3. QLH, I need to show you around my college. None of the dorms are very accessible, as you need to go up at least one flight of stairs to get into any of them–this includes the one with a (very slow) elevator, and the back entrance is worse. The newer section has wide hallways and does seem to be designed with disabilities in mind, so at least the classrooms and cafeteria can be gotten to without too much hassle, even if it requires going around to the side door–however, the dorms are all older, and the amount of renovations it would take to make them accessible would probably make it easier to just tear them down and build new. Some of them are, quite literally, stairwells.