Disability and Inaccessibility at Yale

In March of 2017, I wrote a post at Discrimination and Disadvantage about the situation for disabled students at Yale and other elite universities, drawing upon an article in Yale News that documented recommendations made in the Yale Disability Resources Task Force Report.

Almost two years later, the situation for disabled students (and staff) at Yale remains grim. A recent Yale News article entitled, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Yale’s Neglected Minority,” reports on the current state of affairs at Yale and in particular describes obstacles that first-year student, Arya Singh, has confronted as she attempts to secure an equal education. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Arya Singh ’22, a first-year student in Pauli Murray college, is the only Yale undergraduate who uses a wheelchair. Last semester, she went to English professor Arthur Wang’s office hours on the fourth floor of Linsly-Chittenden Hall for a brief meeting. The chair lift broke. She stayed there for a total of four hours.

The chair lift does not have a button to open the door, so even when it’s fully functional, Arya is unable to use it by herself. Two Yale fire inspectors arrived 45 minutes later and said they had gotten the call to come five minutes ago. For reasons that are unclear, Yale facilities waited 40 minutes to contact them. When Yale Facilities was called for comment, a Yale Facilities employee said that emergency situations will always be handled within 24 hours. He could not give a more specific time frame.

They ended up calling a mechanic. By the time he arrived, Arya had been stuck for four hours. There had also been a miscommunication. The mechanic thought she was stuck in an elevator, and he and his colleagues did not know how to fix the chair lift. According to him, no one ever needed to use it. They then tried to call the company named on the lift but concluded that it no longer existed. The company, in fact, does still exist but has changed names from Access Industries to ThyssenKrupp Access. However, the company no longer manufactures products or provides parts within the United States, and the address listed on the lift is now a roofing company.

The situation ended in a 911 call, despite Arya’s protests. She did not want to make a scene. She says the firefighters that brought her down were “so sweet,” but they hurt her back in the process, and she had to go to Yale Health. Looking back, she says the incident is “proof that Yale doesn’t have the systems in place that they need.”

“That kind of thing to me is just unconscionable,” her father, Dinakar Singh ’90, said. “What if there was a fire? What if there was an emergency, and your child is sitting there trapped because no one knows what to do?”

Read/listen to the entire “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” article here.

Last year, Helen De Cruz wrote a post at Discrimination and Disadvantage about prestige bias and philosophy that includes remarks about prestige bias and disability. You can read or listen to that post here.

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