ND Access-ABLE teaches disability awareness, allyship
Bella Laufenberg | Monday, May 3, 2021
ND Access-ABLE, a student-led group focused raising awareness about students living disabilities, recently held Disabled Enough Week.
Club president and founder, senior Monica Mesecar, explained that Disabled Enough Week was aimed at disproving the stigma around if someone is “disabled enough” to count as disabled.
“[Disabled Enough Week] is to show that disability can look a variety of ways, and they’re all valid and deserving of respect,” she said.
On Monday and Tuesday, ND Access-ABLE hosted Zoom discussion events about the week’s topic — what it means to be disabled and the false misconception that one has to be “disabled enough.” On Wednesday, Mesecar said, the club had a panel event that featured disabled students speaking about their experiences.
Concluding the week, ND Access-ABLE hosted a social Thursday. They also had a table set up at Duncan Student Center on Friday where students could sign a pledge to include disability in diversity conversations.
Mesecar herself suffers from cerebral palsy, which affects a person’s ability to move and walk. Mesecar said she founded ND Access-ABLE because she was disappointed in the University for not paying enough attention to disabled students
“I started ND Access-ABLE because disability wasn’t really an area of diversity that Notre Dame was paying a great deal of attention to beyond ‘we have accommodations for students’ and that’s about it,” Mesecar said. “Whereas I found that I really wanted some sort of community.”
Mesecar said she hopes ND Access-ABLE is a place where students with disabilities and allies can interact as peers.
“If you’re an ally, why should you join? It gives you the chance to learn about and engage with the community that you might not have had much exposure to or your exposure to has been very limited in terms of scope,” Mesecar said. “For example, a lot of Notre Dame students have done work with people with disabilities in some way, but a lot of that is in the form of service capacity, rather than peer capacity.”
This week, ND Access-ABLE will host Leveling the Playing Field Week.
According to ND Access-ABLE secretary Joshua King, Leveling the Playing Field week is centered around the idea that accommodations aren’t about unfair advantages, but about giving disabled students a fair shot to succeed.
“[ND Access-ABLE is] trying to tackle the notion that accommodations aren’t an advantage,” King explained. “It’s just providing us service that we need and like, you know, making it fair to everybody involved.”
King suffers from a vision impairment caused by Stargardt’s disease. He said his accommodations are what allow him to achieve at the same level as non-disabled students.
Leveling the Playing Field Week will be structured like Disabled Enough Week, Mesecar said.
On Monday, the group will host be a virtual conversation about the stigma around accommodations. On Tuesday, there will be a lecture from Dr. Sara Basson, Accessibility and Inclusion Lead at Google. On Wednesday, there will be another student panel at Midfield Commons centered around student experiences with accommodations. A speaker will discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Thursday in a virtual event. All events will be from 7-8 p.m.
To round out the week, ND Access-ABLE will host a table in Duncan Student Center from 2-4 p.m. on Friday encouraging students to sign a pledge to promote disability inclusion, King said.
King said that an important part of being an ally to fellow disabled students at the university is respect.
“The ultimate overarching message is just being respectful and just being cognizant and understanding of people’s differences,” King explained. “Educate yourself on what it means to live with a disability or what it means to be an ally for a disabled student.”
ND Access-ABLE is open to both disabled students and allies and can be reached on Facebook and Instagram.