Whereas there is no inherent difference between race or gender that would differentiate their ability to succeed in any given educational or professional setting, disability differs in that it would be unfair to assume that all disabilities are the same, and that all disabilities would thrive equally in the settings that have been prescribed to be normal by centuries of societal pressure.
Mary Jo Iozzio, professor of theology at Boston College and member of the American Academy of Religion, gave a lecture called "Radical Bioethics: Disability, Difference, and Desiderata" at LMU on Oct. 16. Iozzio called attention to the gap between the way society treats diversity as opposed to disability. Her lecture provokes the question of whether disability is and should be accounted for in LMU's efforts to provide students a diverse university experience.
It is important to offer accessible means to education for all those who wish to pursue it. However, diversity of disability should not be treated in the same manner as diversity of ethnicity, race, gender and sexuality have been increasingly advocated for since the mid 20th century. Instead, I advocate for a future that never ceases to encourage and enable all people to pursue the path of their choice, which includes normalizing the ability of people with disabilities to redefine what it means to be successful in their own terms.
It is important to note that the concern of whether disability should be treated as a subset of diversity, as pertains to the University's effort to be inclusive, is substantially different than whether disability should be accepted, accommodated for and destigmatized. This was another topic which Iozzio discussed in depth.
The question of acceptance and accommodation is most aligned with LMU's Disability Support Services (DSS), whose mission is "[to provide] specialized assistance and resources to enable students with physical, perceptual, learning, ADHD and/or psychological disabilities to achieve maximum independence while pursuing their educational goals." As part of this mission, DSS offers services including note-taking and extended test time, as well as very specialized services like real-time captioning and various forms of assisted technology.
Vejas Vasiliauskas, a senior English major who receives support from DSS, describes his experience as "very positive."
"I have been able to advocate for my own needs," explained Vasiliauskas. "I feel that the DSS staff have been very helpful, especially when I let them know what I need in advance. Since so much of my material is now available electronically, I rarely need to visit."
The support of students with disabilities is not limited to DSS, but rather extends throughout LMU's student body. One example of this is seen in the sororities Delta Gamma and Delta Zeta, whose focus on supporting blind and deaf students respectively reveals among students a willingness to serve as disability advocates. This same mentality is visible within the on-campus Service Organization, Agapé, which works to address mental health issues at LMU and in the community.
Even among students outside of these organizations, there seems to be a strong sense of awareness for the importance of providing support to students with disabilities.
Freshman math and philosophy major Alexis Soohoo explained that, "equality of opportunity does not mean that everyone is given the same thing. It means that each student is provided the specialized support they need to get off to an equal start." This sentiment was echoed by multiple students on campus, all of them agreeing that it is vital for LMU to provide special services to students with disabilities.
However, the question remains of whether LMU should include its representation of disabilities within its quantification of diversity on campus — a question that lacks a clear or concise answer.
On one hand, Iozzio argued that since anywhere between "15 to 25 percent of the world has some form of disability, making it the single largest population," the percentage of people who are disabled represented in any classroom ought to reflect this global number. The benefit of assuming this mentality is that it encourages society to question the assumptions we make on what is "normal," and how these assumptions might exclude vast portions of the population.
On the flip side, Dr. Iozzio's claim in itself assumes it to be "normal" for all groups of people to pursue the traditional forms of education that have historically been associated with success.
Every student should be able to, and encouraged, to decide their path. This requires recognizing that people with disabilities should be able to define their own metric for success.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a sophomore film production and history double major from Pasadena, CA. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.