I just found out that a student with intellectual disabilities won a lawsuit to live on campus. Micah Fialka-Feldman, who is in a special program for students with intellectual disabilities at his college, was not permitted to live on campus, allegedly because he is not a full-time student, but it is quite possible that some ableism is involved here, too, since quite likely it’s the way the program is set up that makes it part-time. Because he doesn’w want to have to travel for two hours from his parents anymore, and because he wants to participate in all that campus life has to offer, he sued to have the university allow him to move into a dorm room. He apparently won the case, and is hoping to move in on Sunday, although the college can still appeal the case.
As a person living in a country where inclusion of the disabled in mainstream education lags miles behind the situation in the U.S., and as a person with a lot of intellectual ability privilege, I find it somewhat hard to imagine that colleges would accept students with intellectual disabilities at all. Where I live, a few vocational colleges cooperate with care agencies to create certification programs or employment training programs, which have some aim of helping people with intellectual disabilities be more employable. Unfortunately, however, we are not nearly there yet: most such cooperations help students earn a certificate at the lowest level possible, that will not make them employable at all. By 2010, disability benefits will be changed, and they’re marketed as giving disabled people more opportunities for education and employment. The premise is that every person under age 27 must either work or go to school, unless they’re absolutely unsuitable, and your disability status will only be assessed at age 27 (rather than 18, as it is now). Unfortunately, with no radical changes to the educational and employment systems, that would truly make them inclusive to people with disabilities, this change of legislation will likely only lead to people being cut off from disability and shoved onto welfare.
Anyway, in the Dutch system, some student housing associations discriminate those in vocational college in favor of university students. That way, students with disabilities, if they want to live in student housing, are at increased risk of facing discrimination. Same for part-time students (there is a hell of a lot of discrimination of part-time students anyway). That way, it is quite likely that students in special programs, at a disadvantage when applying for student housing. Again, we do not know if ableism is involved here. If you are a full-time university student with disabilities, disability services will likely help you find suitable student housing sooner than the nondisabled students (that’s how I got an apartment as a freshman, while all other freshmen have to be content with just a a tiny bedroom or, if they’re unlucky, no housing at all). Then again, in certain situations, ableism is quite apparent. For example, there is a huge waiting list for student housing, so many students rent a room privately, in which case usually the other students in the house, will get to vote on who gets in – something which, quite likely, leads to disability discrimination. Even if you live with student housing, if you end up in a dorm room, it is quite possible that your housemates could discriminate against you, and this may lead to problems keeping your housing.
I think it is a good thing that Fialka-Feldman won his case. Living two hours away from school would, in the Netherlands, most likely entitle you to be put high on the housing list for transportation reasons. I think that even with the discrimination against part-time students and vocational college students, this should’ve enabled a student to get housing, unless disability discrimination were thrown in. In that case, I hope the recent change to our anti-disability-discrimination legislation would help these people access housing.