NEW YORK (WWTI) — State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced a new SUNY-wide Empowering Students with Disability Task Force to help address challenges faced by students with disabilities on campus. The task force will provide additional educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The task force will be led by SUNY Cobleskill President Marion Terenzio and SUNY Empire Office in Charge Nathan Gonyea and will focus on improving the physical access on campus for individuals with disabilities, fighting stigmas that are associated with disability inclusivity, addressing ableism, and fielding feedback from people with disabilities in order to improve the task force.

“Students with disabilities face significant challenges and are more likely to drop out of college than those without disabilities, and cite a lack of accommodations and support services as their top reason,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said. “This tells us we need to do more and this task force will go directly to our students to find real solutions on how SUNY campuses can make the needed changes now.”

According to SUNY 43% of its students self-identify as having a disability. The new task force will be in charge of uncovering and solving the following issues faced by these students:

  • Improving Accessibility: To survey and review all campuses on accessibility they provide for disabled students in classrooms, labs, libraries, cafeterias, housing, and transportation. To remove not only physical but emotional and social barriers to an inclusive learning environment as well.
  • Stigma & Ableism: To acknowledge that students who disclose a disability face negative stereotypes, inaccurate assessments of their ability to complete college level work, and increased likelihood of self-doubt and academic anxiety. To actively address negative stereotypes and misinformation on all SUNY campuses.
  • Increasing Academic Opportunities: To determine if recruitment efforts are equal for students with disabilities. To ensure enrolled students receive the same opportunities for advancement and opportunity, with accommodations as necessary. To highlight the strengths of students with disabilities and bring pride to their achievements.

“We know from the Americans with Disabilities Act that higher education institutions are required to make certain accommodations for those with disabilities, and so it is absolutely crucial that SUNY’s 64 campuses start to examine this issue and gather feedback from students on how we can provide a more equitable and accessible education for all,” SUNY Empire Officer in Charge Dr. Nathan Gonya said.

The Disability Task Force was announced by Chancellor Malatras on July 26, 2021.