Commencement and Accessibility – the Cheese Stands Alone

College of William and MaryBecause it is, believe it or not, time to start thinking about hotel rooms and plane tickets for college graduation, I’ve been looking into how various universities handle commencement seating for guests with disabilities. (Interestingly, while most university websites I looked at least mention the possibility that guests might use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, hardly any introduce the possibility that a graduate might need an accommodation. I’m going to chalk that down to age = disability bias.)

So let’s start with my daughter’s school (and my own dear alma mater):

Floor seating is available for those who require the use of a wheelchair. Disability seating tickets are required for this section. One additional person may accompany a guest in a wheelchair and sit with him/her in this section. All others in the party should use the main entrances to the Hall and sit in general seating.

Ah, feeling so sad and marginalized. I will sit with my husband; our other children will be out there in the mob on their own.

Let’s continue with a few other examples:

Wheelchair accessible seating is available on the north side of the Icardo Center. This seating area is limited and cannot be reserved. Because seating is limited, one attendant per person in a wheelchair will be allowed to sit in this area during the ceremony.

Ooh, unfortunate use of the word “attendant”. And first-come, first-served. Fist fight, anyone?

Wheelchair seating tickets will be assigned and will be available for pick-up at ticket distribution. Please note, one companion ticket will be provided next to the wheelchair seating ticket. The rest of the party will be seated nearby.

Accessible seating is provided for guests with limited mobility. Accessible seating is located in rows near the section entrance that require minimal stair climbing.

Due to the limited number of seats available, groups requesting “Accessible Seating” are limited to four tickets in this area. For graduates receiving up to eight tickets, the additional tickets will be provided in the same section as the “Accessible Seating” tickets.

Here we have tiered discrimination: able-bodied? Eight of you can sit together. Limited mobility, but can climb stairs? Four of you can sit together. Wheelchair user? Sorry, you’re down to two.

Will my family members be able to sit together, or does the person with the disability sit alone?
The person with the disability does not have to sit alone. Your entire party (maximum of four) may sit together in the Disabilities Section. All graduates receive four tickets, regardless of section.

Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyWe have a winner! What a wonderful idea – your entire party may sit together. Let’s hear it for MIT!



  1. Anonymous

    I recognized the picture of the Wren Building right away. I’m class of 1981, my husband is class of 1980, my older son is class of 2010—time to the reserve hotel room!—and my younger son is class of 2013. Go tribe! (Or whatever the new mascot is going to be.)

  2. Katja

    I’m class of 1981, too! Go Tribe!

  3. fridawrites

    That’s very lovely of MIT–I wish more places did that. You can always call and ask if there can be more than one person if there’s room–we’ve done that before successfully–it’s taken multiple attempts. Sometimes someone has to change travel plans.

  4. Katja

    I wrote to William & Mary to express the pain of exclusion. The response (stripped of the obligatory courtesies) basically said, “You’re lucky you get one other person to sit with you” given the “increasing number of guests who come in wheelchairs”. But it also said that they would make an effort to seat the rest of our party “as close together as possible”. So that’s nice.

  5. Darryl Musick

    I hate this. I have the same problem with our team (Angels) when I want to see a baseball game. Anybody can buy up to 8 tickets to a game. However, wheelchair users can only buy one seat plus one companion seat. Another transaction is required to buy more where “every effort will be made” to seat the group close together. In practive, I got a wheelchair seat plus companion in left field. The extra seat? Over by first base. If my son wasn’t such a fan of the team…
    .-= Latest from Darryl Musick: CLASSIC TRIP – Amador County and Gold Country, California 1998 – Part 1 =-.


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