Pio Fair Location Inaccessible to Students With Disabilities

Illustration by Casper Pierce

Kadyn Frawley ’21 sat in her wheelchair above the steps of the Great Platt Lawn in the Estate Gardens, overlooking the Pio Fair on Sept. 6 while hundreds of students signed up for clubs, student organizations and academic events. Unable to participate, she wanted to protest the inaccessibility of the event as one of the few wheelchair users on campus. 

The annual Pio Fair provides Lewis & Clark clubs and student organizations an opportunity to advertise and reach prospective members. Student Activities prefers to hold the event at the Great Platt Lawn on the Estate Gardens weather permitting. Director of Student Activities Jason Feiner specified the reasons for choosing that location for the Pio Fair. 

“Student Activities apologizes to the attendees who were not able to access the fair or had issues fully participating,” Feiner said via email. “We chose the Great (Platt) Lawn — which has been the preferred location the past five years — to accommodate over 125 different student organizations, departments, and community partners, and the 500+ students that attended.”

Sarit Cahana ’20, a representative of DSU, addressed Feiner about the situation directly and says she felt heard, but still thinks the administration can do more to avoid these problems in the first place.

“(Feiner) sent an email to someone else who works on figuring out the location for next year and copied me on that email as proof to hold him accountable for next year,” Cahana said.

The Disabled Student Union (DSU) set up a separate accessible table at the top of the stairs so students with disabilities would be able to access their services.

Cahana says this is nothing new for people with disabilities and that she is accustomed to dealing with issues herself, especially because faculty aren’t trained with all facets of accessibility in mind.

“Most of the time, if you’re disabled, or especially disabled on this campus, you’re having to come up with creative solutions,” Cahana said.

Lara Koyshman ’23 has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which causes chronic hip pain. She also found it difficult to attend the Pio Fair.

“Getting to (Pio Fair) was difficult because the only way down was through steps,” Koyshman said. “Also, it was super crowded, so it was hard to maneuver around.”

Frawley believes the Pio Fair is a symbol of a bigger issue of accessibility issues on campus.

“It’s grass or disabled people — that is the choice that the admin on this campus make,” Frawley said. “(It’s important) for all students to be able to access events that de-hermitize them and allow them to be social.”

For events to be more inclusive of people with disabilities, Frawley suggests that accessibility be considered in the beginning of event planning, and that planners need to recognize “institutional and systemic able-ism” at LC, the able-ism that leads to inaccessible events.

“We do not have the validation of our suffering as a collective identity (on campus),” Frawley said. “And thus, the effort made on welcoming and inclusion needs to be more than just sheer ability to exist in the same space.”

Koyshman feels Student Support Services does well in supporting students, but said LC could do much more.

“I want myself included,” Koyshman said. “I want to make sure that myself and other disabled students can have those (events) available.”

According to Feiner, Student Activities hears the concerns of students with disabilities and is reevaluating next year’s Pio Fair location. 

“As we work to coordinate meaningful, inclusive and empowering events for all students, we will strive even more to employ universal design strategies,” Feiner said. “To that end, we have already begun planning to ensure that next year’s Pio Fair can accommodate and be accessible to all.”

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