Updated: Mar 18
After the events of Payan v. LACCD, it is clear the district is not doing enough to support disabled students.
Opinion by Natalie Metcalf, Staff Writer
The district needs to provide disabled students with more access to learning resources, as their failed petition to take Payan v. LACCD to the Supreme Court proves their lack of support.
The Payan v. LACCD case is crucial to disability rights, as the district wanted the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 to prohibit “disparate impact,” or unintentional discrimination. The case was filed in 2017 by two blind students against the district for not receiving access to textbooks, handouts, websites and other technology needed for disabled students. On Nov. 17, 2017 the district’s lawyers told the federal court to delay the case because the district planned to ask the Supreme Court to take the case.
From the beginning, one can assume the district planned to put the ADA on trial. On March 2, the board of trustees voted against the district’s petition to go to the Supreme Court. Many cases of discrimination against disabled students are unintentional which would make it difficult for a disabled student to prove the prejudice was intended. Discrimination can fall under disparate impact if an institution fails to provide ramps and elevators, along with modified class work and resources that are accessible for blind and deaf students.
Payan v. LACCD is an important topic for first year student Christina Cannarella, as her son Johnny Hatch – who is a disabled student – attends Valley College .
Hatch and Cannarella spoke about a student with disabilities who, before the pandemic, dropped out of Valley. He was not provided with support from one of his professors.
Less than 25 percent of college students claim to have a disability. But the number may vary, because it is illegal to ask a student if they have a disability. The Payan v. LACCD verdict was inevitable, as students are reluctant to apply to college because of a lack of resources.
In LACCD’s final budget of the academic year, the district will spend $9 million for all nine colleges on Disabled Student Programs and Services. East Los Angeles College and Valley each received $1.6 million, while West Los Angeles College received $520,973 and Los Angeles Southwest College received $568,618. The amount of funding depends on what disability a student has and how many disabled students attend the school. Deaf students reportedly receive the most money.
From 2019 to 2021, the Disabled Student Programs and Services budget has decreased by half a million dollars – from $8.5 million to $8 million.
The district must provide an equal amount of funding to each campus. This would allow students to gain access to resources they need for their courses and to obtain their degree.
Both the disabled community and the district will benefit from this, as they need students enrolled in the nine campuses. Despite the disabilities a student might have, everyone learns and grows at their own pace. Making classes accessible for students with disabilities would ensure inclusivity.