Lasallian PWDs urge campus inclusivity in public hearing

A public hearing on the University’s inclusivity toward Lasallian PWDs was held by the Legislative Assembly to help craft the recently approved Disability Inclusion Bill.

The Lasallian persons with disabilities (PWD) echoed their concerns about the University’s PWD-friendliness during a three-day public hearing of the University Student Government’s (USG) Legislative Assembly (LA) from July 19 to 21 at the USG Office Open Space. The hearings sought to gather sentiments for the recently legislated Disability Inclusion Bill that aims to protect the rights of students with disabilities and address the discrimination they face from fellow students, offices, and staff.

“We’re trying to secure everybody’s rights, especially the PWDs to not be discriminated [against] because of their disabilities or status,” Student Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Committee Vice Chairperson and CATCH2T26 Batch Legislator Sai Kabiling noted regarding the hearing.

Although there are current efforts like discounts and available wheelchairs for the PWD community in the University, a lot of Lasallian PWDs continue to struggle with the inaccessibility of some campus facilities and unnecessary strains in availing services from offices.

Ella* (II, AB-PLM), diagnosed with a physical disability that makes walking difficult, shared that the lack of spacious elevators in almost all buildings on campus is a common problem for students who struggle with mobility. For instance, elevators in the St. La Salle Hall can hold only two to three people, while other buildings such as the St. Miguel Hall only have stairs available for use. 

“During evacuation, what if nasa double-digit floors kami? Mabuti [kung may] kasama ako. [If not, I might] be stuck there until bumalik ‘yung people,” Ella stated.

(During evacuation, what if we are on double-digit floors? It would be fine if I’m with other people. If not, I might be stuck there until people return.)

Meanwhile, Lucas Tujan (II, BSMTH-BAP) expressed his concerns with seeking help from some offices such as the Office of Counseling and Career Services (OCCS), saying that the process of accommodating students can be made more accessible. 

After he experienced an inadequate response from OCCS in addressing his mental health problems, he pointed out the incompetence and lack of urgency their counselors exhibited in guiding  him in his troubles. Tujan suggested that welfare checks on the students should “[come] naturally [in] wanting to know about their mental situation.”

Ella echoed such a concern, lamenting the burdensome process of verifying her PWD status to the Health Services Office (HSO) through multiple documents and certificates. 

The forum participants all agreed that the University’s services toward students with disabilities are still lacking. As Ella put it, there is “more to be done” for the community.

As an outcome of the three-day hearing, the STRAW Committee of the LA collated the responses from the forum in formulating the Disability Inclusion Bill, which was approved by the Legislative Assembly last August 16. The policy seeks to push for initiatives, policies, and seminars that will address the concerns of PWDs in the University. 

The bill will put the LA and USG Commission on Disability and Inclusion with various offices such as OCCS, HSO, and Office of Student LIFE in a joint effort to fill gaps by increasing PWD-friendly spaces in physical facilities and advocating sensitivity language to the concerns of PWDs in both faculties, offices, and the community through seminars, among others. 

This also supplements the earlier-implemented customized PWD lanyards, which aimed to bring more visibility and urgency to the accommodations and needs of PWDs and highlight the benefits available to them in the University.

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms

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