Jonathan Atiencia, a freshman film and media arts major, will be the 2019-20 Disability Resources and Services representative in Temple Student Government’s Parliament.
Atiencia, like all the representatives running for Parliament, ran unopposed in the TSG elections on April 2 and 3 and will be taking over the position from Luke Tomczuk, a senior history major who has been the Disability Resources and Services representative since the position was created during the 2016-17 academic year.
The DRS Parliament representative works for anyone registered with the DRS Office and students studying in the Institute on Disabilities, the university’s federally funded programming for students with developmental disabilities.
Atiencia plans to create a week-long program for Philadelphia high school students with learning disabilities to explore the city and university before enrolling, Atiencia said.
Atiencia will also better connect TSG’s goals with the Leadership and Career Studies program, which pairs trained student coaches with students with developmental disabilities to navigate the university’s activities and resources, Tomczuk said.
“He has a passion for disability rights, and he wants to do a lot,” Tomczuk said. “He had a comprehensive platform when he ran two years ago, and he has it again now.”
Atiencia graduated from the Leadership and Career Studies program and in May 2018 and now mentors other students.
The program allows students with disabilities and autism spectrum disorder to sit in on classes to see if they want to take them for credit, said Kathleen Miller, the director of community services for the Institute.
“[Jonathan] is a hard-working, really lovely person and he has a lot of compassion,” she added. “He gives 110 percent of himself to whatever cause he feels is important.”
The DRS representative’s relationship with the program could improve, Tomczuk said. Atiencia plans to work closely with DRS, but wants to focus on understanding what students want first.
Some students with disabilities have trouble accessing on-campus bathrooms like Kat Linden, a junior English major who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair.
“All the bathrooms in Anderson [Hall], I cannot fit my chair in,” Linden said. “I have to get out of my chair and squeeze into the accessible stall. It’s bigger than the other stalls, but it’s still hard to get my chair into.”
Out of 1,602 bathrooms on Main Campus, about 5 percent are designated for people with disabilities, according to the Bathroom Access Disparities report, written by Loran Grishow-Schade, a senior social work major. Grishow-Schade recently submitted their research for review from the university.
“I want to talk to each Temple student with a physical disability [to make sure] they have more access to campus,” Atiencia said.