Friday, September 14, 2012

Disabled students 'overlooked' in policy

Going trayless hinders some more than others

By Kroy Miller, Guest Columnist
Many people have noticed and are wondering why there are no more trays at dinnertime. The Anderson University Commons dining hall has transitioned to ‘trayless’ dinners in order to promote sustainability. Going trayless cuts water usage and helps people control portions at dinner.

However, I do not feel the trayless decision was made with everyone in mind.

For many people the trayless dinners are not a problem. But for others, like me, dinner now brings up certain challenges.

I have Cerebral Palsy, a disability that can be both mental and physical. In my case it is mostly physical—my Cerebral Palsy is directly on my right side. As a result of this, I cannot carry more than one plate at a time.

Most people get more than one dinner plate and a drink, and also make stops to grab silverware, napkins and condiments before heading to a table to eat. This is very simple for most people who eat in the AUC, but very frustrating to students with disabilities.

Without a tray, I have to go back and forth from the cafeteria to the eating area for these various items. I have a major problem balancing plates and other dinner items to get to the table without spilling everything. I feel that walking back and forth is an inconvenience for some students and a big hassle for those with disabilities. Even the extra walking could pose a challenge by making muscles or other parts of the body hurt.

I know several people who attend Pacific Lutheran University who are disabled and it is very hard for us to go trayless. What is worse is that I have heard that trays are supposed to be available for those with disabilities, but I have not seen any.

While leaving trays for those with disabilities is a nice idea, we would be clearly profiled as different from others. It would make using a tray feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to be given special treatment because of my disability, because I am just like everyone else.

At a school that seems to put so much focus on diversity, it seems disabled students tend to get overlooked. I feel that in major school changes, like the trayless policy, we are left out of the conversation. I hope that we can reexamine this new policy and try to find a way to keep the University Commons sustainable while keeping everyone in mind.

Editor’s note: In Managing News Editor Jessica Trondsen’s interview with Erin McGinnis, director of dining and culinary services, McGinnis said trays were available at the cashier stand for anyone who required them. However, McGinnis added that she thought it possible students who may not require a tray could take advantage of the service, though she said she hoped that was not the case.