ASU welcomes a new coalition focused on supporting students with disabilities
This fall, ASU welcomed the Accessibility Coalition to its council of heritage and identity coalitions, which include the Black African Coalition, the Women’s Coalition, the Asian/Asian Pacific American Student Coalition, the Alliance of Indigenous People, the Coalition of International Students, the Rainbow Coalition and El Concilio.
The coalition will work as a governing body to represent students with disabilities across all four ASU campuses as well as ASU Online students.
Organizations and clubs focused on supporting students with disabilities will be able to collaborate and interact with each other under the umbrella of the Accessibility Coalition.
Student leaders say the coalition will provide a safe space for students with disabilities to find a sense of community.
“It provides a space for disabled students to connect and feel welcomed by other students who have similar disabilities and provide them with resources,” said Natalie Snodgrass, a senior studying psychology and co-executive of the Accessibility Coalition.
With the addition of the Accessibility Coalition, ASU will have eight active coalitions working to serve the student body. The coalitions work with student leaders to represent students in identity, culture, community and diversity.
“The coalition is important to me because I think that it is an important part of being able to have students at ASU represented, especially students with disabilities, and I think that it just provides a space for people to talk about disability awareness,” Jaclyn Fishbach, junior studying psychology and co-executive of the Accessibility Coalition said.
“I think this is extremely important because many individuals have a disability without a space to relate with other students who truly understand,” Snodgrass said.
According to Fishbach, students have tried to create an Accessibility Coalition in the past. It wasn’t until this year, however, that students were able to get the coalition approved to join ASU’s Council of Coalitions.
“I'm not as familiar with what was being done beforehand. But I did know that there were a few people who had tried to pass the coalition, but it did not get enough momentum,” Fishbach said.
The lack of momentum and student interest was the reason the coalition wasn’t able to come together in the past, said Haley Tenore, a junior studying journalism and mass communications and co-facilitator of the Accessibility Coalition.
Now, support from other student organizations, greater student interest and backing from ASU staff have allowed the coalition to finally establish a strong foundation.
“This year, we focused on getting letters of support and getting support from administration and other student organizations,” Fishbach said.
The Accessibility Coalition began meeting in October 2020, when students started meeting biweekly to create the structure of the coalition.
“I saw through a posting of a friend from one of the clubs I'm involved in, Devils 4 Devils, that they were starting an accessibility coalition. I realized that we really need an accessibility coalition on campus. So I decided to run for a leadership position and help bring the Accessibility Coalition into the Council of Coalitions,” Fishbach said.
“We have a few initiatives already in action. And then we have a few initiatives that we're hoping to start in the fall,” Fishbach said.
Currently, the Accessibility Coalition is working on initiatives with ASU’s Mentor Network and Greek Life. Other projects include partnerships with the Rainbow Coalition and the Women's Coalition.
An access issue that is currently being focused involves trash cans in bathrooms, Fishbach said.
The Accessibility Coalition is working to put trash cans in both men's and women’s bathrooms.
“Some nonbinary students and trans students may choose to use the male restroom and have menstrual cycles,” Fishbach said.
According to Fishbach, some students with disabilities also might need trash cans because there are none in the men’s bathroom, and they have to carry the trash out with them.
The coalition is also working hand in hand with the Access Program to ensure that ASU maps show accessible paths of travel for all students, especially those with disabilities.
“We’ve been doing the mapping Access Program, which is basically like a map website to make it so we have pathways that are more accessible — that don't have stairs or any of those types of boundaries,” Tenore said.
According to Tenore, in the coming year, Sun Devils can expect to see the Accessibility Coalition host Disability Awareness Month events on campus as well as workshops and other educational opportunities.
As a representative of the Accessibility Coalition, autism advocacy is especially important to Tenore.
Tenore found inspiration to represent students with autism after learning about a student organization on campus called Advocating Sun Devils. Advocating for Devils focuses on supporting and advocating for Sun Devils with autism. As a student with autism herself, Tenore felt that being a voice for others with autism was something she wanted to bring to the Accessibility Coalition.
Students interested in learning more about the coalition can join its Discord group.
“We also enlisted the Discord, which I think is really unique. We have a personal support page just for students only. So if you are struggling in a class or you need advice on something, the rest of the Accessibility Coalition is there for you,” Fishbach said.
Discord is a great place to go if you're looking to get more involved,” Fishbach said.
More information on the Accessibility Coalition can be found on Instagram and Twitter.