The Council for Students with Disabilities (CSD), a branch of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC), kicked off their Ability Awareness Week with a town hall meeting in Fulton 511 this Sunday.
Assistant Dean of Students with Disabilities, Rory Stein, led the town hall with an overview of disability services followed by a Q&A session.
Stein explained that the focus of his work is to ensure that any student who falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) receives adequate academic accommodations and resources on campus, including residential services and nutritional guidance. The ADA prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants with physical or mental impairments that hinder “major life activities.”
In order to register with BC’s Disability Services, a student must register online, submit documentation of the history and functional limitations of their condition, and have a physician’s recommendation for the most effective accommodations. From there, Stein works to organize and coordinate those accommodations.
After elaborating on the operations of BC’s Disability Services, Stein opened the floor to questions from the students in attendance. At this time, Stein revealed that improving housing accommodations and expanding support groups are two top priorities of his current agenda.
While there are roughly 50 single rooms for freshmen, there are less than twenty singles at the sophomore and junior level. This has become a growing concern as the requests for single rooms due to medical reasons have increased.
At the institutional level of a university, it is the responsibility of the student to notify and register with Disability Services in order to receive services. There is a dire need for support groups and outreach initiatives in order to destigmatize disabilities, educate students on the resources available, and empower them to seek the help they may need.
Many individual stories were brought up in the Q&A session that illuminated some of BC’s shortcomings in creating an accessible campus.
With no disability seating in student sections, one student noted that it was “disengaging and uninviting to sit in the disability section on the other side of your friends,” in order to attend exciting sporting events, especially during football season.
Flaws in building plans were also brought up by students. In response, Stein noted that the Disabilities Services is often uninvolved in the planning of key buildings on campus. He specifically pointed out that in McElroy Commons there is a push button for the door when entering from the front of the building, but there is no ramp, defeating the purpose of the push button.
Similarly, if one were to enter from the back entrance, there are double doors, with a push button only on the first door, and none on the second. Therefore, the access to the building is impeded for many students who need a push button to pass through heavy doorways.
Additionally, several students told stories of the disorganization within the Eagle Escort system. Slow pick up rates, failure to pick up students, and poor or unsafe driving has driven students away from the system. Some students suggested that the Eagle Escort system implement an app platform, such as the one used by BC Shuttles, so that students can see where their ride is and even share the ride with other students, increasing the driver’s efficiency.
Ultimately, students and Stein agreed that the most pressing barrier to the efficacy of BC’s Disability Services is the lack of transparency between Disability Services and students. If students do not know what is available to them, they often are not aware that they would benefit from certain accommodations or are eligible for them. Also, some students refrain from using Disability Services because of stigma against having a disability.
Moving forward, Stein hopes to incorporate more Disability Services education and events in orientation activities for coming freshmen, as well as introduce an educational all-school email.
Beyond the dialogue in the town hall meeting, CSD will be hosting a number of nightly events throughout Ability Awareness Week.
Gregory Mihal, the first CSD chair, discussed disabilities in the workplace on Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in Gasson 205.
There will be a networking event focused on upcoming opportunities and events at KPMG for individuals with disabilities, a global network of professional organizations, on Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Fulton Atrium.
Continuing the emphasis on dialogue and conversation, there will also be a panel on the importance of mental health for POC, queer, and differently abled students on Tuesday night. This opportunity for discussion with peers aimed at intersectionality and awareness will begin at 7 p.m. in Stokes 295S. Food will be also be provided.
An adaptive yoga session will take place in Stokes 301N at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Adaptive yoga modifies certain poses to create a more inclusive array of postures and stretches. With only 20 mats available, positions are filling fast. To register, email email@example.com.
The GLC Embody Event, a collaboration between the Women’s Center and Armani King, will take place on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. in McElroy 237.
On Thursday, shuttles will run from Robsham Theater to SoulCycle for a mental health focused class. The class is heavily discounted with the price falling from $36 to $10 for students who participate.
Lastly, on Saturday, Special Olympics Volleyball Practices will take place in The Plex at 11 a.m. with food provided for attendees.
For more information about events and ways to get involved in the conversation about disabilities, CSD is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.