On Tuesday, November 28, the Disability Cultural Center and the Office of Sustainability hosted an “Environmental Access” panel aimed at discussing the intersectionality of climate justice and sustainability for people with disabilities.
The panel consisted of five people – UW-Madison Associate Student Equity and Inclusion Chair Emmett Lockwood, Disability Cultural Center Program Coordinator Helen Rottier, and Lakeshore Conservancy Interim Director Laura Wyatt, Wisconsin. Patrick Kass, Director of University Transportation Services, and Facilities Director Tantivat Access Specialist, California State University’s Head of Facilities Planning and Management.
Each panelist talked about how environmental sensitivity and disability are part of their work. For example, Mr. Rottier talked about the creation of DCC and what disability culture is.
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“Examples of disability culture are manifested in visual art, dance, music, books, podcasts, sports activities, scholarships, social media, and community,” said Rottier. “I would also like to briefly talk about ableism. Disabilityism is an oppressive system that values disabled people for their ideas and closeness to ideals, and devalues disabilities and perceived disabilities. We speak of the idea or ideal of the disabled because no one ever attains the state of being completely disabled. Everyone has limitations in their body and mind.”
Mr. Wyatt discussed the future of the Lakeshore Nature Reserve. According to the Lakeshore Conservancy’s website, the site consists of 300 acres adjacent to the Wisconsin State University campus, from the Limnology Institute near Memorial Union to Wally, next to the village of Shorewood Hills. It extends to Bowman Woods.
The master plan for Lakeshore Nature Preserve included many accommodations for people with disabilities, including buildings within the preserve.
The building will house vehicles to help move people, including people in wheelchairs, and will also have flush toilets. Currently, the restrooms in the reserve are pit toilets, and there are steps to get to them. The installation of flush toilets eliminates the need for high-level toilets, making them easier for people in wheelchairs to use.
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The building also has a viewing area, accessed by elevator and ramp, offering views over much of the reserve. The preserve is also looking into acquiring all-terrain wheelchairs. Accessibility Wisconsinallowing people in wheelchairs to navigate any path, promoting greater inclusion and accessibility.
Mr. Kass talked about on-campus transportation for people with disabilities. Kass said UW Transportation Services provides vans that provide free transportation throughout campus for people with disabilities. Currently, the van carries approximately 11 to 15 students each day. He also provided news about his No. 80 bus route across campus.
“I’m probably very happy to announce that.” [by spring 2025]The buses within the campus grounds will be electric buses,” Kass said. “We worked and partnered with the city to secure a federal grant for nine articulated electric buses, which means that not only will they be electrified, but they will also be approximately 50% more electric than what is currently in operation. It’s going to get bigger.”
Tantivat strives to ensure that all buildings and walkways are accessible to all, and also provides accommodation for those who require assistance with parking or getting around. Tanivat is helping plan which sidewalks will be plowed first and will also have to coordinate with the city of Madison to ensure city snowplows don’t clear plowed sidewalks.
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Lockwood primarily works on disability rights advocacy on campus through coalition organizations. As the ASM Equity and Inclusion Chair, Ms. Lockwood works to advance disability justice at UW-Madison.
“Student activists have contributed so much to this university,” Lockwood said. “In between our ethnic studies programs and our many sustainability initiatives, [the DCC as well]. I [the DCC] space. “