Kimberly McMartin Kept Fighting for KPU Students

Though it’s her final semester, McMartin has been making KPU more accessible for years

Kimberly McMartin (Alyssa Laube)

Five years ago, Kimberly McMartin ran for her first position in the Kwantlen Student Association. Shortly after, she came to know about the students with disabilities seat on Council and, once voted in, embarked on what would become a long endeavour to make KPU a more accessible and inclusive place to study.

“I’m a student with disabilities and I didn’t feel represented on campus,” she says. “There was a lot that had to be changed and it took someone to just come out and say it. It took someone to notice those patterns.”

Some of those patterns were found in issues with accessibility on campus. Crooked ramps in the inner courtyard, a lack of student knowledge about the Services for Students with Disabilities office, and difficulty with communicating to the university administration are a few problems that she personally set out to fix.

In addition to being the KSA’s representative for students with disabilities—with only Landon Charney otherwise filling the role since she was first elected—McMartin also acted as a student senator and chair of the nominations committee in the KPU Senate. She sat on the President’s Diversity and Equity Committee, functioned as a board organizer for KPIRG, and was the president of the Criminology Students Society, the Anthropology Students Society, and the Japan Club.

There has been a shift in how students with disabilities have been treated at KPU, according to McMartin. The ramps still need to be straightened, but there are more chairs on the school grounds for folks with mobility issues, as well as a scent-free policy within the KSA and assorted audits within KPU. This, in part, is due to the hard work that she is proud to see pay off as she prepares for her final semester.

“President Alan Davis was talking about thinking of accessibility when we renovate, and that’s amazing,” says McMartin. “It’s slowly changing into a social model which we really appreciate, because the other model wasn’t working for anybody. A lot of people don’t have the diagnosis but the diagnosis doesn’t dismiss the symptoms.”

McMartin is currently winding down from her KSA projects and tying up the loose ends she’s left in the Senate. An American Sign Language mini-school that she’s supporting still needs teachers. She’s also working on an illustrated pamphlet about KSA services for people who can’t read easily.

As of September she will officially be finished with KPU. This summer, she’s taking a class she can enjoy to leave a sweet taste in her mouth before she departs with a Bachelor’s double major in anthropology and criminology.

Caring for her mental health, bolstering her portfolio, and working in Tsawwassen Mills’ guest services section are some of the activities she’s planning for her life post-graduation. This decision didn’t come to her easily, as McMartin explains that, “being someone with disabilities, it’s very hard to get that second interview [and] very hard to get your foot in the door, especially when it concerns your language.”

Experience, communication, and hope are the three most important lessons she feels that she’s taking away from her time at KPU.

“My way into getting into advocacy was to get angry and then get involved,” she says. “I would say before you get angry, get involved. Get involved the first chance you get …. You can always change things. You can always appeal. There’s grants and other money you can go to. There are ways to support yourself at KPU and to get involved and to make it a better place.”

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