Some students face limitations in accessibility on SUNY Oswego campus

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Accessibility is at the front of people’s minds after the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to adapt and accommodate. However, there are still limitations within accessibility on the SUNY Oswego campus. 

Rachel Cesar, a freshman at SUNY Oswego, said she experienced a lack of help from SUNY Oswego with her physical disabilities. 

“Sometimes I couldn’t even go to class because either my diabetes levels were so low I felt like I was going to pass out or my cramps were too painful for me to get out of bed,” Cesar said. 

Environmental accessibility refers to physical changes made to a person’s surroundings that promote their safety and freedom while also ensuring their health. 

SUNY Oswego provides accessibility within education by working with the faculty and staff on campus to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The office provides support services, adaptive technologies, and other assistance required to help all students succeed.

Cesar would communicate with her professors when she wasn’t able to make it to class due to her physical illness but those absences were not excused. 

“I reached out about these absences and why I’m having a hard time going to class but I was told it was up to the professors,” Cesar said. “It made me feel like I wasn’t being supported…despite them communicating prior to the start of the semester that they’d be able to accommodate me.” 

Cesar is currently taking a semester off after having a hard first semester at SUNY Oswego and hasn’t decided if she will return for fall 2023. 

The Mahar elevator is one issue that both students and lecturers are aware of. The lack of the only working elevator in a four-story building makes it so people with disabilities or an injury have to take the stairs or relocate to a more convenient classroom. 

“It’s been weeks and the elevator is still out of service. Not having an elevator that works makes it harder for people who rely on it to get from place to place,” Camila Sandoval, a junior at SUNY Oswego, said. 

In a article published by The Oswegonian’s Editor-in-Chief Annika Wickham about accessibility on March 24, the reason for this is, according to Christy Huynh, dean of students and co-chair of the Campus Safety Advisory Committee, is that addressing the problem takes time due to supply chain delays for parts and labor.

However, there is no currently known progress on the matter.

Despite SUNY Oswego’s limitations within accessibility, Nathalie Moreno, a junior at SUNY Oswego, registered her cat as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in her sophomore year to help ease her anxiety and has since been more comfortable at SUNY Oswego.

“I’m a first-generation student… so I was terrified coming to college so far from home. I struggled a lot my first few semesters,” Moreno said. “ [But] after getting Yuumi, [my ESA cat], she doesn’t make me feel so alone anymore.” 

Donna Greene, a professor in the Department of Art & Design, was a 2020 fellow in the Faculty Accessibility Fellow Program at SUNY Oswego, where she focused on digital accessibility. She also teaches her graphic design students to study with accessibility in mind. 

“Something I focus on is how to create materials that are more accessible to the students by creating more platforms where materials are easier to read,” Greene said. “The university has a pretty big initiative that they have been doing around that.” 

SUNY Oswego’s Digital Accessibility initiative is committed to enabling inclusive and equitable educational opportunities by making it so materials are machine-readable and follows basic principles of accessibility. It also helps everyone who is experiencing less-than-optimal work or learning conditions stay on the same playing field.

Greene has seen a change in attitude towards learning and applying accessibility to art from her students. 

“I do notice now that they try to define… the universal design, which means that if it works for people with disabilities, then it’s most likely going to work for everyone,” Greene said. “I do think students are aware of it and they generally want it, it’s just hard remembering to do [certain things] that are required.” 

Due to Greene’s experience with researching accessibility, she likes to offer her students as many different platforms of learning as possible. 

“I think everyone can learn a little bit about how people absorb information,” Greene said. “I let my students know that… there are some accessibility statements put in. You could have something read out loud to you [and so on].”

To learn more about SUNY Oswego’s accessibility resources and policies, you can visit https://ww1.oswego.edu/accessibility-resources/policies and for more information about SUNY Oswego’s campus accessibility initiative and groups, go to https://ww1.oswego.edu/accessibility/campus-accessibility-initiative-and-groups