Report: Colleges Failing To Protect Students With Disabilities
Despite research suggesting that women with disabilities are more likely than others to experience sexual assault on campus, a new federal report finds many universities are unprepared to support these students.
Sexual assault prevention efforts at colleges and procedures for assisting those who experience assault on campus often overlook students with disabilities, according to findings released Tuesday in a report from the National Council on Disability, a federal agency that advises the president and Congress on disability policy.
The agency interviewed sex assault experts and staff at various colleges and also conducted two national questionnaires that sought comments from college students with disabilities.
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The resulting report found that colleges lack policies and procedures to ensure that supports are in place so that students with disabilities can communicate with first responders. In addition, prevention and education programs on campuses are often not inclusive, with staff frequently unaware that such programs should be accessible or unfamiliar with how to provide disability accommodations.
Meanwhile, federal research on campus sexual assaults fails to track incidents affecting people with disabilities in the same way that race, nationality and sexual orientation are measured, the report found.
“Sexual assault has become a topic of concern on campuses and with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, but seldom has the conversation included consideration of the needs of college students with disabilities,” said Wendy Harbour, a member of the National Council on Disability and director of the National Center for College Students with Disabilities. “One campus said students with disabilities were not ‘on their radar,’ but it’s time to change that and make national conversations more inclusive.”
NCD cited figures from a recent study conducted by the Association of American Universities that found nearly a third of undergraduate women with disabilities reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact that involved physical force or incapacitation. By contrast, 18.4 percent of their peers without disabilities reported similar incidents.
The federal agency is urging Congress to require colleges to report the number of sex assaults on students with disabilities and be transparent about accommodations for those who do experience such incidents.
In addition, NCD wants the U.S. Department of Education to provide technical assistance to colleges on the rights of students with disabilities in these circumstances and said the Department of Justice should collect data on disabilities as part of its research on sex assaults at colleges.