In their Movement for Social Change course, taught by Assistant Professor of Dance Catherine Cabeen, MFA, and Associate Professor of International Studies Andreas Hernandez, Ph.D., students examined negotiations, throughout history and today, between social structures and the human body, which contest and define opportunity, community, and power. One assignment for the class required students to devise and carry out a plan for social action on an issue during the semester.
Darina Eid ’19, Lorena Jaramillo ’19, Lily Page ’19, Cyrus Adams ’20, and Madison Weisend ’20 were shocked when they began to understand the discriminatory nature of not having elevators at all subway stations. Lorena Jaramillo explained, “We believe that everyone—people with physical disabilities, elders, parents with strollers, people with injuries, or workers carrying heavy equipment—have the right to move independently around the city.” But when the students began research for their project, they found that 77 percent of the NYC subway stations are not accessible, meaning there are no elevators or ramps for access to the platforms. As able-bodied people, the students had never previously considered the impact this has on so many others.
This newfound understanding compelled the students to urge the MTA to address the lack of accessibility within the NYC transit system. With the help and support of their professors, the group developed a social media campaign using the handle @subway4everybody and created a petition to raise awareness and encourage others to join in the fight for better public transit accessibility.
On Saturday, December 1, the students gathered in the rain at the 5th Avenue-Bryant Park subway entrance prepared with posters, information, and a list of demands. Jaramillo says, “We got really positive reactions. For the most part, it was able-bodied people who came to the realization that a lot of stations were not accessible. We also had interactions with people who have been affected by this in some capacity, including elders, tour guides, and friends who can’t use the stairs. It made us further realize just how much accessibility issues truly affect the NYC community.”
Professor Catherine Cabeen is especially proud of all the work her students have put into this course throughout the semester. “I am very excited about all of the ways the students are engaging their bodies/minds in their final projects. The #subway4everybody protest and Instagram page are powerful moves to raise consciousness on a very important issue. I’m proud of all of the students involved.”
To see pictures from the event, follow @subway4everybody.