According to Accessible Dispatch, the top three colleges in New York State that advocate and accommodate students with disabilities are two SUNY universities, Cortland and Empire State college and a private institution, Hofstra University. They also include other SUNY schools on their website, but what’s alarming is that our campus was not listed. Therefore, what makes those schools more inclusive and accessible? Well, first, SUNY Cortland has introductory courses on disabilities along with other relevant studies. Empire State has a simple and non-invasive accommodation form but also resources and workshops for faculty and staff. Hofstra University, a private institution, has a disability minor, has access services for disability students and special housing accommodations for students. Unfortunately, Farmingdale State College has none or the minimum American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance requirements.
Thorough research has revealed that Farmingdale State College is not on any list of accommodating the disabled community. As a student who attended Hofstra and is now enrolled at Farmingdale, I can attest to the fact that there is a lack of advocacy and accommodation for students with disabilities. As an able-bodied individual with a disability, I applied for accommodations due to my disabilities, but the Disability Services Center (DSC) wanted a lengthy document that violated my privacy. When I went to my health care provider and gave her the Farmingdale State College guidelines, she questioned if I felt comfortable sharing this sensitive information and I was honestly not. I had already had an accommodation form from Suffolk Community College and a disability award letter where the state acknowledges my disability. Why did I have to release personal information just for extra time on exams and to be in less crowded spaces? If a student has to undergo the trouble I did, then I can see why this is not often used when it comes to able-bodied disabilities.
I reached out to Farmingdale State College’s Disability Services for an interview, but the Director of Disability Services refused to arrange an interview.
Fortunately, Dr. Kevin Jordan, who is the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence (DEI) at Farmingdale was more than willing to speak with me. I spoke with him at his office in Horton Hall and wanted to understand how he views diversity, inclusion, and equity. He stated that “Diversity is like when someone invites you to a party. It is when someone at that party asks you to dance, that means inclusion.” Dr. Jordan stands by the belief that students with disabilities are a huge part of the DEI mission statement. According to their DEI webpage on the Farmingdale website, “FSC recognizes and celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion as foundations for 1) comprehensive recruitment and retention, 2) curriculum development, 3) collaborative governance and administrative planning and leadership, and 4) diverse campus activities and programs.” He commented that throughout his career, he was always involved with disability services in making sure students have no boundaries or limits placed on their success.
I then spoke to Juliet Jordan, who is the President of Farmingdale’s Disability Coalition Club, which was formed in 2022, and to its Vice President Alison Frometa. Juliet, who goes by Jay, states that she has a physical and chronic disability that has never limited her ability to advocate, but she explained that it is the surroundings that are keeping her from reaching higher. The mission of the club is to let the community know that students with disabilities are regular individuals who enjoy the same things as everyone else.
Jay states that there is a lack of education surrounding the disabled community that needs to be addressed, because to her being disabled is not a barrier; it is just another challenge that non-disabled and able-bodied individuals face but in another perspective. What made Jay take the initiative on taking on the presidency role for the Disability Coalition Club was Farmingdale State College’s Blazing Trail To Inclusion event that was offered in the Fall 2021 semester. At the end of service, students were asked to write a letter indicating what needs to change on campus to make it accessible. Jay knew that writing a letter would not be enough and needed to act, thus creating the club.
Jay has plans for bringing awareness on campus through workshops, game nights, and trivia nights hosted by the club and the members. The club is starting a STAIR Project which involves students of the club taking photos all over campus to inaccessible areas to spread awareness of what needs to be changed. Jay stated, “We shouldn’t be needing to ask for our basic rights; there shouldn’t be a process to make a campus accessible”. Jay described that during the snow storms this year, she was unable to go to class because the campus did not plow in areas of high traffic, and she was unable to use her wheelchair to get to her destination. Jay, alongside her club members, want to change and make accessibility the social norm.
To gain even more perspective on how aware Farmingdale State College students are about advocacy efforts on campus, I spoke to Villas Hariprashad. He is an able-bodied individual who manages one of the buildings on campus. I asked him if he saw anything wrong with any of the buildings he has been in so far and he replied saying that the upkeep of accessibility buttons to open doors needs to be better. Vilas further said that the accessibility buttons in Lupton Hall are sometimes hanging off, and due to the ongoing construction, an individual who needs access to the building needs to rely on someone else to open it. He spoke about the lack of access in the meeting rooms in Quintyne and notes that during tour guides, the prospective students and families enter through the only access door in the building and leave towards the stairs. He said, “There was a mother who had to lift her baby carriage to bring it down the stairs.” Vilas stated that he would want more advocacy efforts as he believes there is none on campus and this issue is something that he is passionate about.
Here is a link to the Disability Services Center (DSC) Web site with information about how to contact them directly if you have any questions or concerns of your own https://www.farmingdale.edu/disability-services-center/index.shtml.
Dr. Kevin D. Jordan. VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence at Farmingdale State College.