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Celebration with a purpose: York Participates in ADA Festivities

This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act celebration was back in-person.

Held at Queens College (a CUNY tradition since 2001), it was a day full of laughter and conversation. For York College, however, the excitement for this year’s picnic was unyielding. Yet this could also be the result of many changes and additions to the Cardinal campus, especially York's Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD). First, York has a newly sanctioned chapter of the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD) - thanks to Lisa Maycock's hard work and commitment. 'CCSD @York' was established in 2021; Maycock, one of the CSD's accommodation specialist, also serves as faculty advisor. CCSD@York co-sponsored the ADA Celebration for the first time ever. Additionally, CSD has a new director, a recognizable member of the CUNY-wide family, Charmaine Townsell. With a new club and new director, the Cardinals had the highest number of student attendees ever, and it wasn’t just CCSD@York and CSD; representatives from the Student Government Association and the Veterans Affairs office also attended. Thanks to the support of Vice President Karen Williams and Dean James Salnave, there was representation from all of York’s Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Cardinals contributed to an overall total of 243 attendees, the turnout was historic, the highest in the history of the event.

Yet even with all the great music, games, rides, and even a bubble machine, the real reason for CUNY's disabled students, faculty, counselors, administrators and allies to celebrate was not forgotten. The ADA was signed into law 32 years ago (July 26, 1990), and quickly became known as one of the largest comprehensive civil rights acts in history. Disability rights lawyers, educators, advocates and activists across the country have relied on the ADA for protection for public accommodations, public service, employment, and telecommunication.

The crowd cheered as New York City’s leadership spoke of the rise and successes of our disabled graduates. In true CUNY spirit, many recognizable faces were present. In circulation amongst students were popular Queens College President Frank Wu and Vice President Jay Hershenson. Also present from the Queens College family, were former NYC Councilmember and Distinguished Professor James Vacca, and Henry Yam, a Queens College alum and Chief of Staff for New York City Councilmember James Gennaro.

There was so much love and fellowship. CUNY Vice Chancellor Dr. Denise Maybank gave an encouraging speech, “There ain’t no party like a CCSD Party, ‘cause a CCSD party don’t stop!” This proved to be accurate. And all this mixing and mingling took place while enjoying the American traditions of tasty hamburgers and good “ole” hotdogs smothered in mustard.

York College’s Senior Director of Student Wellness and Resources, Charmaine Townsell, was constantly snapping photos of all the smiling faces and introducing students and staff to New York City Councilmember Linda Lee; NYS Senators Leroy Comrie and Toby Stavisky as well as NYS Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein, David Weprin, and Khaleel Anderson. Bradly Hershenson, former SUNY SA President and Student Trustee, and USS Chair and CUNY Student Trustee as always shared their support as allies and friends.

First to arrive, and present in full force, were the campus chapters of CCSD. Collectively, CCSD represents over 11,000 disabled students at CUNY. Ms. Lennyn Jacob, Chair of CCSD shared her excitement.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to engage with each other and elected officials while appreciating all the advocacy by and on behalf of disabled people to allow us to be here today,” she said.

A highlight of the day was when Senator Stavisky honored CCSD and CDS with Citations for noted activism and advocacy on behalf of disabled students state-wide.

Here at York, and throughout CUNY, we know the value of the ADA, because we know the value of our disabled students. CUNY’s disabled population works very hard, and their potential is limitless, there is no end in sight. We thank all those who work hard and diligently to support equal access and opportunity for the proud students, faculty, and staff. This anniversary only happens once a year; however, our work for equal access continues. We are ONE YORK!

-C. Townsell