Wheelchair Ride to Panhellenic Pride: Ramps, Recruitment, and Reaching Full Accessibility to Sororities

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Margaret O’Connor


With 18 sororities that participate in formal recruitment at the University of Illinois, Panhellenic Council seeks to promote full inclusion and “mutual understanding” among all women who decide that they want to become a part of the Greek system. For women in wheelchairs or motor chairs, Panhellenic Council facilitates the accommodations necessary to allow the potential new member to visit every house. Research methods were focused heavily on personal interviews but also include a survey of sorority chapter presidents, archival research, Panhellenic Council’s governing documents at the University of Illinois, and research on student publications. Interviews reveal the perspective of the women serving on Panhellenic Council, a woman with a physical disability who is an active member of a Panhellenic Council sorority and a woman with a physical disability who chose not to participate in formal Panhellenic recruitment. The final paper explores the limitations of the temporary accessibility that is only required for formal recruitment and how this may deter or promote participation in sorority life for women in wheelchairs. It also explains the connection between physical and social accessibility and how this relationship impacts active membership after formal recruitment. Ultimately, it highlights the ways in which the Panhellenic community is working toward but still has yet to reach mutual understanding of what “accessibility” means between able-bodied sorority members and women with disabilities.

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