This Wednesday, September 13th, WGST had the pleasure of hosting Lisa Coats from the Disability Services Office for Lunch N’ Learn. This was an event for students and staff to get to know what the office provides for students with disabilities as well as the larger Mason community. The event was hosted at JC240K, at the Women and Gender Studies Center and as the name suggests, it was an opportunity for people to bring their lunch and learn alongside other students.
What is the Office of Disability Services? They are a division of University Life that focuses on ensuring a safe, equitable, and accessible learning environment for every student. Some of the services they provide include providing accommodations for classes, student organizations, and housing. Something that was reiterated throughout the event was that disability takes many forms. While some can be visible, there are things that cannot be easily observed. On top of providing certain accommodations to students who need them, ODS also helps students who need to get connected or start the steps to get a formal diagnosis. ODS also recognizes the cultural, and financial barriers that inhibit groups of people from attaining accommodations. This is why they encourage a universal design for learning, a framework in education that encourages flexibility, understanding and recognizes the full scope of diversity in people’s learning abilities. Because accommodations are not only relegated for use by those with disabilities, it helps everyone.
One of the biggest takeaways from this event for me was being conscious in providing an inclusive space, emotionally and physically both in my work here at the Center, as well as a community member and peer. This event feels even more appropriate when considering it is Disability Voting Rights week. Among the many demographics of this country, those with disabilities face the biggest hurdles in securing their right to vote. When considering how many of those with disabilities hold one or more intersecting marginalized identities, this issue is integral in eradicating disenfranchisement.
I would also like to thank Lisa for encouraging an overall culture of understanding and kindness when talking about people with disabilities. It takes very little energy and time to cast judgments on those that don’t look or behave like what we expect to be the “norm”. But it takes courage, and strength of character to create intentional spaces of care and understanding. Big thank you to ODS and Lisa Coats for making time to educate and listen. Visit their website for more information and ways to connect. https://ds.gmu.edu/mission-vision/
September 14, 2023