Disability Inclusiveness in Eastern Washington

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Jeremy Burnham

EWU’s Disability Support Services office located in Tawanka 121. DSS offers a variety of services to help accommodate students with disabilities.

By Aiden Cook, Co-Managing Editor/Copy Editor

 

As one walks amongst the suburban streets of Spokane they may begin to notice a troubling pattern. Cracked pavement, uneven sidewalks, lack of proper walkways and overall a crumbling, old infrastructure surrounding them. While someone like myself rarely feels the effect this presents, the story is a complete opposite for thousands of others. 

According to the CDC Disability and Health Data System, 26% of all adults in the U.S. live with some form of a disability. Half of all those adults live with a mobility disability, affecting their everyday commute. With such a large number of adults present in the disabled community, what is the community doing to empower them? 

Dr. Ryan Perry of the disabilities studies research program spoke fondly of EWU’s strides in supporting the community.

“EWU, like any institution, is always evolving with regard to accessibility and inclusion,” -Dr. Ryan Perry, Disabilities Studies Research Program

“EWU’s Disability Studies program has been working across campus and with students to foster the disabled community for many years,” said Parrey.

Parrey went on to mention some of their recent accomplishments, including the creation of EWU’s wheelchair basketball team in 2017 and the creation of the Disabled Students’ Coalition in 2018.

“EWU, like any institution, is always evolving with regard to accessibility and inclusion,” said Parrey. “But the students I know are increasingly feeling and being made to feel that they belong.”

However, what is the city of Spokane, and more importantly the state of Washington, doing to provide inclusive environments for the disabled? Many, including Parrey, say not enough. While Spokane and the state of Washington have been making strides in creating spaces for disabled voices, there’s still more work to be done.

“One thing the city needs to realize is that access to education, public spaces, political spaces and the community at large, is not a ‘favor’ it is doing to ‘help out’ people with disabilities but rather, a human right,” said Parrey. “It’s something that everyone who lives in Spokane should be encouraged to take advantage of.”

While Spokane may be a long way from a perfect environment for this community, several organizations in Washington have taken the initiative to help. Groups like Disability Rights Washington and Access 4 All have been fierce warriors in promoting equal inclusion and access in the state of Washington. 

Students board the STA route 66 which goes to and from EWU to from downtown Spokane. New route changes may affect students who have to make the commute.

Disability Rights Washington itself has been pushing important programs such as the Disability Mobility Initiative, striving for more accessible infrastructure. The Rooted in Rights program is producing videos and campaigns based exclusively on disability rights issues. 

“Our country has been designed around the automobile as transportation,” stated Disability Rights Washington. “And for those of us who cannot drive or cannot afford to drive, this creates major barriers for us to access school, jobs, medical care, grocery stores, religious services and everywhere else we need to go in order to participate fully in our communities.”

As Washington and Spokane continue to grow, one hopes that with help of organizations like Disability Rights Washington, an inclusive environment will grow with it. However, with crumbling sidewalks, uneven curbs and an overall mediocre infrastructure, Spokane has a long way to go.