Photo courtesy of Rowan O’Bryan
“UCLA ab-le-ist!” replaces the “fight-fight-fight” in the UCLA iconic 8-clap at last Friday’s Disabled Student Union (DSU) protest for remote instruction. Many wore white in solidarity.
As we head into the second year with the coronavirus, many are feeling uneasy about the “safe” return to campus, especially those who are disabled and/or immunocompromised. For the disabled community, the coronavirus is devastating, as their lives are the most endangered by the virus.
The DSU protest was sparked after a meeting with the UCLA administration on Tuesday, October 5th where the administration came to the meeting empty-handed and shut down the carefully thought-out plans the DSU had laid out during the meeting. The protest happened both over Zoom and in-person in front of Royce Hall last Friday.
“We have made it clear that prioritizing in-person instruction endangers everyone at UCLA, and that UCLA’s current Covid protocols are too vague and wildly inadequate. Despite that, admins insist that nebulous issues like ‘academic freedom’ are more important than our lives.” Ariel Prag, a member of the DSU involved with the Zoom aspect of the protest, asserts in an email to me.
The protest itself was powerful, lined up with 3 speakers and testimonies from fellow Bruins, students, TAs, and faculty who have benefited from remote access. Testimonies were from both disabled and non-disabled people, which emphasized that remote access is not just for disabled students, but for a broad range of students for which in-person classes are not a possibility. People who have children, people who work, etc. are among those who made testimonies in favor of remote learning. The DSU also displayed the total number of signatures they received for their petition calling for UCLA to add more options for remote instruction.
While the protest itself was for remote access, DSU members highlighted the inequities disabled people on campus face from IEPs and other accessibility measures not being enough, such as high turnover rates in offices that deal with accommodations for disabled students.
It is abhorrent the ways in which the administration treats disabled students, casting away their demands for equity for the sake of something as vague as “academic freedom.” It also shows that the administration doesn’t care about its student body, but instead about the profits it can make from us being on campus. October 8th was a testament to just how much remote access is very much a necessity.
Unfortunately, the administration has not made any compromises or followed through with the plans laid out by the DSU.
As Prag says, there are currently no future actions lined up for DSU and its fight for remote instruction and accessibility on campus. However, Prag was able to give me a list of ways for those who aren’t in DSU to get involved in this fight:
- Comment on, tweet at, and tag UCLA social media;
- Send an email to the admin – we have templates!
- Sign the petition and share it with friends/family;
- Let your professors know that everyone would benefit from remote instruction;
- Offer to stream courses on Zoom for disabled / parenting / commuter / international classmates;
- Take some time today to learn about concepts like universal design, universal accommodation, accessibility, and race-, gender, or sexuality-based disparities in healthcare;
- Make your own clubs/organizations accessible to everyone – make a Zoom option and turn on live captioning!
“Seeing the involvement on Friday was emotional for all of us. It was really encouraging to see so many people show up to support us; it felt like all our hard work was worth it.” Prag says. “As far as future actions, we’re still working on fighting for remote access. Admin can’t count on us giving up – we won’t.”