May 9, 2021

Missing: Capital’s Disability Community

There is a moment in the middle of a good stretch, just as your limbs are reaching the farthest they can go, when your muscles burn an uncomfortable amount. For most people, that’s the point when you stop. For me — that’s how it feels to move.

Or, at least, how it used to feel.

When I first started looking into Capital University in the winter of my senior year of high school, my disability was a crippling part of my life. It was during this period that I was still largely undiagnosed and learning to accept that my body wasn’t the same as everyone else’s.

The first time I visited campus, and later during the Collegiate fellowship competition, I remember loving campus from the beginning: the location, the people. Capital seemed like it was for me. I felt like I fit.

Over the course of that summer, I was diagnosed with three chronic autoimmune disorders. I gained back the ability to walk and function as a more traditionally able person — although my body will never go back to the way it was.

For the first time in three years, I was suddenly able. Starting college felt like the beginning of a new life. But for someone like myself and many others, school comes with a number of other concerns. What if I get sick again? What happens to my grades if I can’t go to class? What about gluten-free food? How am I supposed to get up and down stairs if my legs stop working again?

Obtaining disability services for anything can be a long, complicated process that is extremely reliant on thorough documentation. In other words, if you don’t have an official, printed document from someone with the title “Dr.” then it’s hard to get accommodation.

You have to prove that your concerns are valid and legitimate — which for some can be difficult. It can be extremely expensive to be tested and verified for learning disabilities such as dyslexia. My own parents paid upwards of $2,000 to test my sister.

After you’re documented, you can be put on a specific learning plan and have specialized accommodation in the classroom and obtain special disability residence. In cases like mine, where my medical and learning disability needs are extensively documented, this wasn’t an issue. For the most part, Capital was able to my needs — although it was a little complicated at first.

My housing accommodation is more than adequate, although Capital University dining was so horrendous at providing gluten-free options that I had to be waived from the meal plan. My accommodations were fine and worked for my life.

Until I started thinking about myself 6 months earlier. The ‘me’ that couldn’t open a door on her own or walk up steps. The ‘me’ that screamed when she put her feet on the ground and could never go to class. What about that girl?

The truth is, Capital University is full of blatant violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that a normal person would never think about: broken disability showers, the Student Union elevator broken for months at a time, the heavy doors with no automatic opening.

As for living on campus, none of the residence halls are up to ADA code except for Cotterman — my current apartment being the single option. If I student needs air conditioning, Cotterman is the only option or it must be installed, which often never even happens. Whenever I’ve brought the subject up in conversation, the reaction is an eye roll.

“Well, yeah,” they say. ”Everyone knows that.”

There are lots of things wrong with that reaction, but the simple version is this: Capital University is so bad at ADA that it is simply accepted and widely known. For a private university trying to gain students and compete with the Ohio State University, this goes against expansion in the future.

Right now, Capital University doesn’t have that many students in need of wheelchair accommodations, but that’s because those who need them don’t even bother to come here.

“How am I supposed to get to class? I can’t get a wheelchair in there.”

The argument against updating Capital facilities is, of course, money. However, the university can’t expand the number of students if they can’t accommodate them. Add a multi-million-dollar disability lawsuit into the mix, which is sure to happen eventually, and suddenly spending the money sounds like a better solution for everyone.

Plus, as of now, Capital is alienating the disability community outright, creating a giant hole in the diversity of university life and losing the contributions of people who could make our community brighter. Students shouldn’t have to choose between joining the Capital family and living a safe and comfortable life.


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