Statements were collected through many channels including in-person interviews, audio recordings, e-mail, and social media. On social media, students were urged to contact the Commission if they identified as disabled, temporarily disabled, invisibly disabled, physically disabled, intellectually disabled, a part of the D/deaf community, had disabled family members, a chronic illness, a mental illness, a learning disability, or were connected with disability in any way. When students or alumni reached out to the Commission, they were asked to speak about their experience at BYU and if they had any solutions they felt would benefit BYU. Participants were advised to avoid demeaning the university. Other disabled students were contacted on campus by commissioners. With the student’s consent, they would either email their statement to the Commission or participate in an in-person interview. Interviews were recorded and commissioners transcribed each recorded statement before emailing the transcription to the students for clarification. All participants were informed that their statements would be published. They were given the choice to remain anonymous or to have their name published with their statement. All statements consist of both current students and alumni. These statements are alphabetized by first name for an unbiased organization.
Ramifications and Anonymity
In conducting interviews and gathering statements from individuals about accessibility at BYU, we ran across the issue of fear. Fear that speaking out and asking for equal access, a right they should already have, would lead to repercussions academically and socially, including being denied their accommodations. Fighting for equal rights should not be necessary, and fear about sharing one’s experience should not exist. As a community, we need to examine the culture that exists and the policies that are in place that would deter a person from feeling comfortable sharing their experience with disabilities, and wanting equal rights and access. Part of our goal is to help make this a reality, we hope that our efforts will result in a future at BYU where students receive the access and accommodations they need without having to fight for them, and one where they feel safe existing as a disabled person at BYU. When collecting statements we gave each student the opportunity to be anonymous for this purpose, but we feel names give a powerful identity to each statement and have thus included all those that have granted their permission.
Truth Commission Model
This research and final report has been modeled after truth commissions, which are a widely-used method of reconciliation around the world. Truth Commissions seek to provide truth, justice, reconciliation, reparations, and non-recurrence. This Commission is dedicated to bringing truth, justice, and reconciliation to BYU. Non-recurrence is vital to the future of students and faculties rights. The Commission wants to help facilitate achieving equal access for future students and staff that come to BYU. Future individuals at the university will be ensured that BYU is passionate about equal access, and are continually trying to recognize measures to improve upon. Through implementing these Recommendations, BYU will be held accountable to equal access and recurrence of issues will be less likely to occur. The Commission brings statements and experiences from many different individuals, but is far from comprehensive or all-encompassing. These statements are the backbone of the Commission as they serve to shed light on the true experiences of students. While the Commission cannot enact policy, it advocates for the rights of others and encourages policy-makers to protect those rights. The Commission seeks to create dialogue concerning the disability community at BYU.
Throughout this document we will refer to students both as disabled or as students with disabilities. The National Center on Disability and Journalism recommends person-first language (i.e. student with a disability). This refers to seeing the person as a human individual before seeing the disability. Identify-first language (i.e. disabled student) is preferred by much of the disability community, as disability is a key part of one’s identity. “Disabled” is characterized as a burdensome identity solely because society sees it so. A disabled individual is only disabled by the inaccessibility around them. For example, if a building has a ramp to get inside, a disabled student has the same access as any other student. If not, the societal and physical structures have disabled them. When working with the disability community it is helpful to ask what language is important to them, as we have done in this document when needed. For example, those who consider their hearing loss a primarily medical condition may refer to themselves as disabled, while those who identify with Deaf culture and pride do not consider themselves to be disabled.
Name of the Commission
The Equal Access and Disability Rights Commission is named as such to include all individuals who have the right to enjoy equal access. Disability cuts across all intersectionalities. Thus the disabled community itself consists of people from all backgrounds and walks of life, as well as allies who support the disability communities rights. This commission consists of both allies and disabled individuals. Equal access is for all, including intersectionalities such as age, socioeconomic status, class, education, beliefs, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sex, gender, expression, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other discrimination based on unequal treatment. When one minority group is discriminated against, everyone is hurt. We support other minority groups quest for equality and equal access. This is why the Commissions name emphasizes Equal Access as their first initiative, regardless of disability. We are aware of the complex issues surround diversity and realize a holistic approach has often been neglected. The Commission seeks to empower all individuals within the Universities care.
The University Accessibility Center is also known as the UAC or the Accessibility Center in all documents. Brigham Young University is shortened to BYU in all documents. The Equal Access and Disability Rights Commission is shorted to the Commission in many areas within this document. The Americans with Disabilities Act is shortened to the ADA. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is shortened to Section 504.
This report will be distributed to all entities that impact the disability community. As many administrators are far-removed from the issues that have taken place, communicating the experiences that individuals have had will help provide a deeper understanding. The Final Report will also be distributed through email to all stakeholders, as well as publicly available on EqualAccessCommission.org. To fully emphasize the importance of the projects truth finding mission, we seek to be transparent in all of our documentation.
BYU has been our case study in providing in-depth recommendations and feasible solutions. As BYU is the largest religiously affiliated private university, it is a interesting case. While our current research focuses on BYU, we are currently discussing with other universities to increase access for all higher education facilities. BYU is the first of many colleges that can provide their students with equal access and reconciliation. We intend to continue to bring awareness to many other universities. The Commission’s published data comes specifically from BYU, but other universities will soon have completed data to upload as well. Each case study will be uploaded as completed.
The Equal Access and Disability Rights Commission has collected personal statements from students, alumni, and others in the BYU community about their experiences with disability. We encourage you to read through these statements to get a better sense of the experiences disabled students have had while at the university. These statements represent the experiences of their authors and any individual statement may not be representative of the experiences of others. Truth Commissions are a valid research technique and do not require individual statements to use legal jargon in explanations of their experiences. Some exaggerations are to be expected. It is not reasonable to expect disabled students to speak as in a court of law. Our website will be continually updated as new information comes to light. We acknowledge there may be small inaccuracies. These small inaccuracies do not invalidate the issues at hand. We seek to provide accurate information, but we acknowledge as students we do not have any prior training in the law. Nevertheless, we want to show that there may be legal backing to student statements, as it suggests that this is a broader concern than individual complaints, and may need university system intricacy changes.