The Lumberjack student newspaper

Understaffed SDRC struggles to support students with disabilities

Disabled students support each other where the administration doesn't

By Ollie Hancock

Ash McElroy is a proudly disabled student. They came to Cal Poly Humboldt well aware of the hills and stairs the campus was built upon. McElroy informed Housing they would need an accommodating dorm for their mobility aid, Housing assigned McElroy to the notably inaccessible College Creek dorms on the hill.

“To their credit, they put me on the first floor, but I could not get my chair through the door,” McElroy said. “I was like, hey, this is not working. Can we move me?”

Housing took months to reply after denying the dorm was inaccessible in the first place. McElroy requested at least adding a push button to get in the door.

“They told me that actually my building was accessible and they didn’t know what I was talking about,” McElroy said.

In an email to McElroy, Housing said a locksmith had confirmed that the press to open button does work.

“I had to have the SDRC go and take pictures of the building to prove that there is not one. Like how’s [Housing] straight-up gaslighting me about this?” McElroy said. It would take a few more months before housing accommodated McElroy’s needs.

13% of Cal Poly Humboldt students have a disability, the second-highest rate of disability in any Cal State University. Humboldt is right behind Cal State Maritime Academy, which has only 600 students. At the Student Disability Resources Center, Mary Smith and one other part-time staff advisor address accessibility needs on campus. Smith believes the access to green space, small classrooms, and positive learning environment attract students with disabilities to Humboldt’s campus.

“We feel like we’re drowning,” Smith said. “We have nearly 800 students with registered disabilities and one and a half advisors. At California State University San Bernardino, the ratio of accessibility advisors to students is one to 65. At Cal Poly Humboldt, the ratio is one to 500.”

“A majority of the disabilities on campus are psych disabilities. It used to be learning disabilities,” Smith said. “Learning disabilities are much more manageable. It requires some training and accommodations, but usually, you set them up, and they’re good to go. Psych disabilities are a much more revolving door. You can’t set someone up, and they’re just good to go. The level of services is way more intense.”

In the past years, between the pandemic and Cal Poly Humboldt’s fiscal history, Smith has struggled with job security.

Two years ago, the administration offered a retirement buy-out offer. Smith took it and retired.

“They never replaced me, and they called me back…I have so many asks, and I also have absolutely no job security,” Smith said.

The strain of an undersupported SDRC can go undetected by non-disabled admin, faculty, and students. It is not something that disabled students have the privilege to ignore. Alicia Martin is a Cal Poly Humboldt grad student and the founder and director of Adaptable, the campus club for students with disabilities.

“We’re the only club that serves this population of students on campus, and there’s a lot of pressure,” Martin said. “We’re not funded by A.S. It’s all just completely our time and our energy. And we love doing it, but it’s overwhelming. Because we end up having to support students who can’t access food. Who can’t get into buildings. Who aren’t able to hear or see their lectures. Who are months behind in course work because their accommodations aren’t met.”

Martin is working with students on campus to transition to a post-pandemic world. The pandemic forced to change and exacerbated problems that impact students with disabilities. On the other hand, with so many people adapting to the pandemic new adaptive technologies became commonplace.

“Some of this technology is very useful,” Martin said. “We have people who don’t use sign language and rely heavily on lip-reading, and so Zoom was great. Now, they’re transitioning back to the classroom.”

Students with disabilities continue to support each other despite the obstacles and limited bandwidth on campus. They find support from each other while advocating for universal design. Universal design centers on usability and access for all. It often makes life more convenient for everyone when design is accessibility-based. Accommodating issues on a need basis frames people with disabilities as a problem.

“We are not the problem,” Martin said. “[Campus operates] on a medical model of disabilities. In a social model, the people who say I can’t are the problem, not me.”

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination