Staff Editorial: Guilford strives for access everywhere, for everyone



This isn’t the “access to education” you’re used to thinking about. November’s “Access Everywhere Week” is not about the availability of tools for academic success; it isn’t the “access” common to sociology classes, one made bleak by socioeconomic conditions; it’s not even about monetary access to funding a higher education.

“Access Everywhere” addresses something much more simple than those, and something more often forgotten: the physical accessibility of our campus to all people.

As strategically placed signs reminded students, faculty, and staff throughout the week, the ability to navigate the steps to a building’s entrance, reach an elevator button to make it to a second-story classroom, or pass through a hall’s double doorways should never be considered the norm. At Guilford, the biggest obstacle of the differently abled is not in getting to a place, but having a place in the conversation.

The conversation regarding diversity is taken seriously at Guilford, where our core values foster an emphasis on social justice. This conversation, however, often forgets the special concerns facing Guilford’s handicapped population. In our celebration of diversity, we exclude the views of those whose disabilities give them a much different perspective of this campus; widespread neglect of that perspective is as much an obstacle to the learning experience of the differently abled as restricted elevator access.

During “Access Everywhere,” four Guilford students— scholars of the Principled Problem Solving program— hosted a presentation of their research on Guilford’s handicapped accessibility. Their presentation opened a long-ignored, but much-needed dialogue regarding the campus’ accessibility. This project confronts the ways that we think about disability, or worse, the ways that we don’t.

The Guilfordian is accepting the challenge posed during “Access Everywhere” — the challenge to remember and celebrate the demographics that make up Guilford’s proud claim to a diverse student body. The conversation regarding access and denial is one that we will continue to have here at The Guilfordian.

Our commitment to equal coverage begins with a basic commitment to equality. The problem of inaccessibility runs much deeper than an inequality of entryways; there is an inequality that begins in the conversations regarding campus diversity, especially in its conclusion of the differently abled.

“Access Everywhere” was timed to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it has called attention to the need for a permanent place for this important and evolving conversation. Our students, faculty and staff must integrate the concerns of the differently abled into our classroom discourse, in the vocabulary we use regarding diversity, and most importantly, in our view of the school.

In the spirit of “Access Everywhere Week,” let’s continue to practice the empathy required to see this school in the diversity of ways that our classmates do— with a view to its merits and weaknesses as both a physical campus and as a community.