YUSU disability policy “segregates” students

YUSU’s Disability policy has been accused of segregating rather than integrating the disabled student community.

Amy McKessy, a first-year Social Work student, proposed a motion at last week’s UGM, arguing that the current policy should include students who do not have a disability, and that “YUSU’s policy effectively segregates rather than integrates the [disabled] student community”.

McKessy said: “Whether you have a disability or not, [elections] should be based on what you have to offer, not your self-defined label. Physical attributes, gender, sexuality, race or any other label shouldn’t hinder a person from applying [for a YUSU position].”

The position of Disabilities Officer is currently only open to students who self-define as ‘disabled’. At the recent YUSU elections, no candidate ran for the position of Disabilities Officer, leading many to question the logic of limiting a position, which is already difficult to fill. This is especially problematic as only eight to ten per cent of the student population have a disability.

Charlie Leyland, YUSU Academics Officer, described the argument of “someone is better than no-one” as being “weak”. She claims that “disabled students want to talk to someone who understands the issues faced from first hand experience.”

Leyland continued to say that she was opposing the motion because “the platform, the voice and the reigns should remain firmly with [disabled] groups and should not to be taken out of their hands at any cost.”

McKessy believes that Leyland opposed the motion because “she thinks it will be hard for someone who is not disabled to understand the issues relating to the disabled community.” A Langwith first-year student supported McKessy, arguing that: “Excluding certain people [from running for a position] doesn’t necessarily benefit the student body.”

He continued: “Instead of self-defining as disabled or as a racial minority, you need to self-define your interests. In the case of Amy McKessy, it’s obvious she’s not just running for the position to fill her CV, she’s genuinely passionate about helping people with disabilities.” McKessy has said that it makes no difference whether a Disabilities Officer self-defines as disabled or not because “no-one can truly relate to or represent people, as we are all individuals and all experience things differently”.

“YUSU’s policy effectively segregates rather than integrates the [disabled] student community.”

Amy McKessy
First-year Social Work student hoping to run for Disabilities Officer

She believes that her extensive work experience with disabled people has allowed her to gain “an understanding of different issues”,  and will allow her to “empathise with them.” If the UGM motion is passed, McKessy intends to run for the position of Disabilities Officer.

Leyland commented: “The only way we can truly change the culture [towards minority groups] is by everyone engaging in liberation campaigns, contributing towards them, strengthening them, participating, listening [and] advocating, but essentially they must be led by themselves.”

One comment

  1. A mate pointed this article out to me and I’m so glad he did because I want to take my hat off to Amy McKessy for opening up this debate. It’s a well-timed debate if the position of Disabilities Officer wasn’t filled in the recent elections.

    Good luck to both sides – I’m too past it to be in a position to state my views, I had my time in the sun (Access Officer 03-05, EdWelf Officer 05-06). But do find out what NUS disability campaign think – god, I hope they don’t still call it ‘students with disabilities’.

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