Editor’s Note: Megan Parker was elected President of the Student Accessibility Group at Akron. This article was written strictly based on information from other group members.
The Office of Accessibility created the Student Accessibility Group at Akron (S.A.G.A.) in response to a previous campus incident and as a way to provide students with a place to discuss issues of accessibility.
Last semester, a student with physical disabilities was left in their dorm room during a fire alarm. Although the situation turned out to be a false alarm, the student did not learn of this until later the same day.
As the initial response to the situation, the Office of Accessibility sent out an email outlining a new evacuation memo that tells students the steps to take in emergency situations.
Additionally, the Office of Accessibility Associate Director Jessica DeFago and Director Kathleen Kulick expressed that while it is not required, students should register with them in order to receive accommodations and other assistance.
The Undergraduate Student Government also got involved after the incident, as former residence life Senator Nisya Hunter and other senators worked with the student and Office of Accessibility to find solutions.
Since the incident, the student has graduated from The University of Akron. Nonetheless, their mark has been left on campus as they helped in the creation of S.A.G.A.
Current USG Senator for the College of Business Administration, Grant McConnell; a sophomore business data analytics major, said he first learned of S.A.G.A. being formed at the beginning of this year.
“Former Senator Hunter and myself were looking to help create such a group like this to bring awareness to issues here on campus,” McConnell said. “Once I was informed that such a group was being created, I was ecstatic.”
According to results from a survey sent out by the Office of Accessibility, students interested in the group thought it was a good idea and wanted the group to be focused on social networking and advocacy.
After the group’s first meeting on Sept. 11 in the Jean Hower Taber Student Union, Kulick hopes that those involved will eventually feel empowered enough to share their experiences on campus.
“My goal for the group is that they find their voice and feel empowered to express their concerns in a respectful, solution-based manner,” Kulick said.
Of the students involved, sophomore Jack Wolf, a marketing and sales major, decided to join S.A.G.A. in order to be a part of bringing changes to campus for the improvement of all students’ lives, not just those with disabilities.
Wolf is looking forward to working with S.A.G.A. throughout the semester, as it also gives him a chance to meet new people on campus with common goals and experiences on campus.
Breanna Sprenger, a freshman biology and child development major, is also looking forward to working with others in the group. However, Sprenger will be working with them as the Vice President of the group.
Sprenger first joined S.A.G.A. to help raise awareness for issues of accessibility on campus. Then, when she learned the group needed a Vice President, she took the position to use her own experiences to help that awareness.
“My goals as VP are to be a leader, increase the group size and spread more awareness,” Sprenger said.
As for USG’s representation in the group, McConnell hopes to help S.A.G.A. grow as much as possible on campus as part of USG’s main purpose of building community and enhancing the college experience.
During the groups first meeting, topics of discussion included issues with various elevators on campus, parking troubles and the evacuation procedures in place for students with disabilities.
Of all the topics discussed, one important item was opening the group to invite students without disabilities to attend meetings in order to offer different viewpoints and learn about accessibility directly from those impacted by it.
“Having people from different backgrounds will help us to come up with different solutions to problems that are brought up through S.A.G.A.,” Wolf said.
As the semester continues and more meetings are held for S.A.G.A., Kulick hopes more students, with and without disabilities, will get involved with the discussions of accessibility and disabilities arise.
“Offering solution-based assistance and real world insights will add to any conversation when issues to disability are discussed,” Kulick said.
The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. in Bierce Library by Starbucks. Future meetings for the fall semester are still being scheduled.