The students with disabilities representative is making its return to ASUSF Senate. After being absent for two years, the student body has voted to revive the position. Due to Senate restructuring two years ago, the position was taken away. According to the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS), 10 percent of the student population is registered as students with disabilities. “There was a desire from the student population to bring this position back to life,” said Vivian Garcia, sophomore psychology major and president of the Students with Disabilities Coalition.
According to Garcia, there is a lot that needs to be done to support students with disabilities on campus. Some supportive changes would include more wheelchair access, getting more professors to give SDS accommodations and improving organization of the Public Safety shuttle services. Kiana Martinez, senior sociology and critical diversity studies double major and current vice president of advocacy, said that the representative will be able to remind fellow senators of their privilege and that the University should be equally physically accessible to all students. “We are trying to move beyond compliance and actually being inclusive to students who have disabilities,” said Martinez.
ASUSF Senate restructured two years ago, with the idea to decrease the number of senators to resolve the issue of retention among senators and to have the positions on Senate be more intentional. During this restructuring, the vice president of advocacy position was introduced to Senate and took on the role of the students with disabilities representative. The goal was to have the VP of advocacy be in collaboration with SDS to advocate for students on campus. “We thought the VP of advocacy can do that position, but that is kind of a lot,” Martinez said. She also noted that the VP of advocacy also might not be someone who identifies as a student with disabilities, which would not truly highlight the voices of those students. According to Martinez, she and her fellow senators thought it did not make sense to take away an important position in Senate.
Garcia has been working in collaboration with Senators Sage Hapke, gender and sexual diversity representative, and Amanda Agustin, former student of color representative, this year to bring the position back to Senate. “I give them major props and am so grateful that they were willing to do all of this, outside of their regular seat responsibilities,” said Garcia. The proposal for the position to be reintroduced was initially brought to the attention of Senate on May 18, 2017. The process of actually writing the referendum began during fall 2017, where Hapke and Agustin wrote the referendum in collaboration with Garcia and the input of other students on campus. During the fall semester, the proposal was presented to the advocacy committee and then introduced to the larger Senate. In March 2018, Senate voted on the referendum and approved it to be on the ballot for the spring election.
Garcia has been considered to be appointed as the initial students with disabilities representative. “I would absolutely love to be the students with disabilities representative,” said Garcia. They are excited about the referendum being passed and are pleased with the support behind the return of this position.