Don’t Disregard the Daily Lives of Students with Disabilities

I’m a member of the low-vision community. You’ve probably seen me around campus, walking with my cane — you probably looked for a second and thought, “Huh, I didn’t know there were blind students at Miami.” Then you went about your day as usual.

Miami University, while treating disabilities somewhat ambivalently, has a lot they can do to reverse the principle of non-inclusion. This is a socialization phenomenon taught and enforced by education and the educative system. Schools isolate students with disabilities, whether consciously or by accident, by separating them from a traditional classroom or by not making classroom materials accessible to students with disabilities. This isn’t just harmful to disabled students—it teaches a dangerous doctrine to non-disabled students as well, that disabled students are second-class citizens.

I’d like you to think about the most stereotypically Oxfordian experience you can. Chances are, you thought about heading uptown to grab some grub from Bagel & Deli with your friends, or else sharing a plate of waffle fries outside at Skippers. Now, imagine that you’re low-vision or blind. Can you read the menu?

As a group, we wanted to make experiences like this accessible to anyone. We decided to partner with these two businesses and the AccessMU center to print Braille menus for low vision or blind students at Miami who would like to hang out uptown with their friends, have a bagel or a drink. This isn’t just for them though, students with family members visiting whose family members are low vision or blind can enjoy these quintessentially Oxfordian experiences with their students in a way they wouldn’t without an accessible menu.

We reached out to these businesses, both of which were very excited by the proposal. In conjunction with the restaurants and AccessMU, we compiled menus and sent them to be printed in braille, and the menus are currently being implemented and will hopefully contribute to not only some happy memories formed by members of the blind/low vision community and their friends and family but also to the reversal of the principle of non-inclusion. We hope other businesses uptown will follow suit and make changes to make their services and products universally accessible.

Tell me, are you doing everything you can to level the playing field for students whose abilities are not less than yours, just different? As a person, are you furthering the principle of non-inclusion? Look within yourself. Think about what you can do to make the experiences you love here, at your second home, universal.

Shelby Rice

Oxford and Beavercreek, Ohio