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When it comes to accessibility, the most common practice seems to be accomodation. Rather than changing systems and structures that make it difficult for people to function within society, we make small, minor changes for individuals, despite it not being the most effective way to make things accessible. 

At Brock, this may look like a student working with the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre to communicate their needs to professors and instructors. They may then be granted accommodations such as flexible deadlines, or extra time when writing an exam. While this is certainly better than nothing at all, it puts the onus on individuals rather than inaccessible systems. 

What if the standard across the board was accessible structures? Surely, that would benefit everyone involved. The most inclusive structures are those that ensure that people rarely, if ever, need to ask for accommodation because it’s inherently accommodating.

This is an issue with both physical and more conceptual structures. For example, a truly accessible physical location is one that has both stairs and ramps leading to its entrances, not one that provides assistance to people who cannot use the stairs. A truly accessible syllabus would, in the same way, be one that gives everyone flexible deadlines, not one that says an instructor will provide them if deemed necessary. 

Providing accomodation can feel a bit like treating the symptoms rather than finding the cause of a problem. We don’t ask why these accommodations are necessary, and therein lies a major problem. It is often possible to implement accessible practices across the board to reduce the need for accommodations all together. It requires a bit of extra work and foresight, but it is never impossible. 

Very simplistically, if a professor designs a quiz and anticipates that it would only take five minutes to complete, but that some people may need extra time, why not just give every student longer to complete it? Typically, extra time would be given on a case by case basis. In addition to singling students out, this once again places the responsibility to fix inaccessibility on the person experiencing it, not on who, or what, is causing it. 

The goal of accessibility should not be to simply recognize that some people have different needs than others, but to fully integrate those needs into the systems that already exist. If that requires taking apart and reassembling the system, then that’s worth it (and maybe the system wasn’t all that great to begin with). Acceptance and recognition only go so far.