NUDM launches first Accessibility Week, addresses financial accessibility, diversity and inclusion


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

NUDM 2019. The organization will run a mainly virtual version of its annual Dance Marathon from March 3 to 6.

Ashley Capoot, Reporter

After Northwestern University Dance Marathon struggled to be an accessible event for students that identify as low-income or disabled, organizers this year are advertising their efforts to make the tent a more inclusive space.

NUDM’s Dancer Accessibility and Experience committee organized the club’s first NUDM Accessibility Week last week, Oct. 13-19. The initiative aimed to inform students about measures NUDM has in place to make the event more accessible.

NUDM will take place in March, but preparations for the annual event are already underway. This week, students can officially register to dance and begin their fundraising campaigns for this year’s beneficiary, Children’s Home & Aid. NUDM will support the organization’s Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Child & Family Center in Evanston, which supports young children and teens in foster care who have experienced some form of trauma.

Jessie Paridis, the co-chair of NUDM’s Marketing and Media committee, said NUDM has made efforts to inform students about accessibility in the past but the information got lost during registration.

“There’s so much content distributed during dancer registration that the accessibility content was kind of getting lost,” Paridis said. “If accessibility is something that’s impeding a dancer from registering, then they should know about the measures we have in place before they register rather than during the week that it’s happening.”

The event — which recommends participants to raise $400 to participate before dancing in a tent for 30 hours — has been criticized for being inaccessible for students with disabilities and low-income students who do not have the option to fundraise from family members.

Over the course of accessibility week, committee members took to Instagram to discuss NUDM’s approach to financial, academic, physical and mental accessibility.

To address financial barriers, the group said they will provide free transportation to canning locations and recommended students participate in Northwestern psych studies to fundraise. However, NUDM did not lower the $400 prerequisite for participation.

For physical and mental disabilities facing dancers, they said they would accommodate food allergies and recommended dancers “rest and return” to the dance floor.

Weinberg senior Regina Fricton, one of the co-chairs of DAE, said her committee has revamped its focus on accessibility in the past few years, and NUDM Accessibility Week is a product of that hard work.

Last year, NUDM changed the Dancer Beneficiary Relations committee to the Dancer Accessibility Experience.

“We basically have a whole committee dedicated to experience and accessibility for dancers,” Fricton said. “This seemed like a great next step for promoting accessibility on campus for NUDM.”

However, many Northwestern students still don’t think of NUDM as an accessible event.

Weinberg sophomore Yaakov Gottlieb danced at NUDM during his freshman year, but he said he had some trouble raising enough money to participate. He said he tried to reach out to his family for support, but they were unable to give at that time.

“It’s a lot of money that we have to raise,” Gottlieb said. “It’s all for a good cause and it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that it’s hard for people to bring up money out of nowhere.”

Nonetheless, SESP senior Sam Schmaier, the second co-chair of the Marketing and Media committee, said NUDM doesn’t pretend that they’re perfectly accessible for every student. Accessibility Week aimed to showcase the measures they have in place, and future efforts to improve, she said.

“I thought what was cool about this week was we were able to advertise what we have already in place, while also learning from the community about what they still want from us, and the measures and the lengths that we still have to go,” Schmaier said.

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Twitter: @ashleycapoot

A previous version of this article misspelled Regina Fricton’s last name, incorrectly stated raising $400 dollars is required to participate in NUDM and due to an editing error, incorrectly used he/him pronouns for Sam Schmaier. Sam Schmaier uses she/her pronouns and NUDM recommends dancers raise $400 before participating. The Daily regrets the errors.