DSC works to help those with disabilities
The Disability Services Club (DSC) started to take form in the spring of 2011, when Morgan Elliott, the club’s founder and president, realized that SLU lacked a safety net for students with temporary physical injuries.
“It kind of happened due to my own injuries and the injuries… of others,” Elliott said.
She came to SLU with a broken ankle and found herself in need of help navigating campus. Her friends were kind enough to help her get to most of her classes, but without that help she would have a more challenging first semseter. When her friend Kate Sulkowski experienced similar troubles after dislocating her knee, Elliott decided that a change was in order.
Elliott, Sulkowski, the club treasurer, Vice-president Lizzie Puzniak and Sonam Vyas, the group secretary founded the group in the spring of 2012. It started out as a volunteer organization primarily concerned with temporary injuries.
People who suffered an injury that required them to use crutches or a wheel chair could ask the DSC for help. Members of the club would then be assigned to help a student across campus by carrying their books or pushing a wheel chair – anything to help ease the process of travelling across campus in a comfortable and timely fashion.
Margaret Hennessey, a junior at SLU said. Hennessey was coming back to school in January on crutches and she was looking for help getting around campus during the winter. Her mother called the school looking for assistance and they were directed to Elliott.
“My experience with DSC was better than I could have ever imagined,” Hennessey said. “At first, I thought it would just be an awkward walk to class with someone I didn’t know. Everyone was so friendly, though, and it was never awkward.”
The members of DSC did as much for Hennessey’s physical difficulties as they did for her peace of mind.
“No one who walked with me ever rushed me or was annoyed that I was moving slower than them,” she said.
Inspired by the compassion the members of DSC showed her, Hennessey joined the club this year to give back to those that might share her experience.
In the spring of 2012 DSC became a fully chartered organization, and since then have been able to acquire funding for to hold a host of events on campus designed to educate the SLU community about people with disabilities and to help those in need.
This year the group joined the Student Success Center in hosting “Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit,” an interactive display designed to increase awareness about people with disabilities and provide historical information about the disabilities movement.
The Exhibit includes an ‘Ability IQ’ quiz that evaluates one’s knowledge about disabilities in law, communication and pop culture as well as a ‘Space Rope’ which is meant to emulate the communication distances of those who are blind or have low vision.
The Ability Exhibit was born from an idea put forth by then-graduate student Anne Marie Carroll as a project in Director of the Higher Education Administration program Karen Myers’ class. Carroll and Myers have since developed the exhibit into a travelling display, and high demand has generated the possibility of creating a second exhibit.
DSC will also hold the Friday Fast to Feed on Oct. 11, an event dedicated to raising money for the SLU chapter of the Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) charity program. The Fast to Feed asks people to first consider the average price of a meal compared with the $0.22 cost to provide a meal to a child in need somewhere across the globe, and then to experience missing a meal while giving what they would have spent on food as a donation.
Donations collected from the Fast will fund the FMSC event, held as part of Make a Difference Day. The club is the first SLU group to host the event and their goal is to package 100,000 meals in six hours, all of which will be sent to children in need.
While an emphasis on feeding the starving may not seem to fall under the umbrella of disabilities services at first, DSC is working to change that.
“We are trying to expand the definition of disability to nutritional and financial [disabilities],” Puzniak said. “We also look at awareness on campus.”
In addition to expanding definitions, the group hopes to expand the purview of the club in more concrete ways.
DSC is working to add a learning disabilities component to their organization, offering to help students by taking notes. Additionally the group hopes to gain access to club carts so students in crutches or a wheelchair have a way to get to class on time with less hassle.
Counted amongst DSC’s other successes are the renovated sidewalks on Grand leading from Reinert Hall to the rest of Frost Campus. They went to SGA to request the walkway be fixed. After the request moved through administration through to the city, construction began.
“Before you may remember they were really, really tiny and uneven and kind of fell of a cliff,” Elliott said. “Having those sidewalks change was we think one of the best things that could happen.”