One year later, Schlenker weighs in on accessibility



Emily Schlenker.

A year after her civil rights claim prompted Wichita State to appoint an accessibility coordinator and promise to make university resources more accessible to the visually impaired, Emily Schlenker, a blind pre-med student, said WSU should still be doing more in the realm of accessibility.

“Yes, things are getting better, but in a lot of ways, the system is still broken,” Schlenker said.

Schlenker said she is encouraged that the Student Government Association is striving to become more accessible to deaf students, but that they should not stop livestreaming weekly senate meetings.

“I’m not saying they shouldn’t try to fix it,” Schlenker said. “They should be streaming the meetings and trying to fix it.”

Schlenker said one solution would be to implement a program called A la CARTe, which allows for real-time captioning.

She first noticed the program being implemented at a national chemistry lecture she attended.

“This lady, I was at a big lecture and she was running this thing on her computer and the deaf students were totally engaged,” Schlenker said. “It was awesome.”

Schlenker, who is enrolled in two classes this semester, said she has had two very different experiences with the university’s preparedness to accommodate her needs.

She said her biology course and lab has been extremely adaptable.

“They were so prepared to have a blind student based on their own effort and their own research,” Schlenker said. “I can go in there and all my solution bottles are Brailled. I mean, I can’t give enough kudos to those guys.

“They were not told what to do. They went out and made the effort because they cared about me and they wanted me in their class.”

She said her organic chemistry course has not been nearly as accommodating.

“One of the reasons I signed up in April for an autumn class is to give the Office of Disability Services the time that they needed to actually get the materials prepared,” Schlenker said. “And I was still about a month behind up until now in that class.”

She said Brailling did not begin for her organic chemistry class until August.

Schlenker said it usually requires a crisis for the university to take action.

“I see more like, ‘Well, we think we’re prepared. Emily’s going to take a class. Oh no, what’s going on? Why doesn’t she have her materials?’” Schlenker said.

She said WSU needs to understand that the agreement to become more accessible is binding, not optional.

“In some ways, I don’t feel sorry for WSU because there are other universities that make all of these access issues work.”


Note: An earlier edition of this story read, “Schlenker, who is enrolled in two classes this semester, said she has had two very different experiences with professors’ preparedness to accommodate her needs.” Schlenker reached out to The Sunflower and said her organic chemistry professor “has made tremendous strides toward making a class he teaches via chalkboard a course where I am thriving in the lectures.”