UGBC Looks To Revive Disability Council

As part of her effort to raise disability awareness both on campus and in the community as well as to assert the voices of the disabled population at Boston College, Samara Meyers, director of disability issues within the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) and A&S ’07, has taken the initial steps to revive a disability council at BC.

The council was founded by Alex Grey, BC ’06, and was most active during the 2003-2004 and beginning of the 2004-2005 academic years. Programming events primarily worked to raise awareness about the disabled population at BC and in the larger Massachusetts community. Panels like “True Stories” featured BC student speakers, all of whom had varying disabilities. Each panelist spoke about his or her experiences and struggles with disabilities growing up and now at college. Students in the audience were given nearly full license to ask questions that might have been uncomfortable in a different setting.

“We wanted them to be free to ask whatever questions they wanted,” said Meyers.

Other Disability Council events focused on support for the local disabled communities surrounding BC, said Meyers. They included a rally for runners raising money for the Massachusetts Spina Bifida Association in the spring of 2004 and a holiday celebration with the organization in late 2004. Both events were held on campus, which helped bring more attention to the Council’s cause.

Following Grey’s graduation from BC, there was no one to take over his position as the director of disability issues within the UGBC. Meyers volunteered for the job and now hopes to rekindle what Grey left behind.

Meyers herself has what some might call an “invisible disability”—that is, her physical disability is not immediately apparent. Meyers explained that she developed a traumatic brain injury from surgery to remove a brain tumor while in grade school, called a left hemiparesis. This type of injury has varying degrees of severity—for Meyers, it caused her to lose her left-side vision in both eyes.

“It’s kind of like a stroke, because one side is weaker than another,” she said.

Her personal connection to the cause certainly contributes to her commitment to the organization. She hopes to create a diverse council containing students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, “invisible disabilities,” and even students without disabilities.

The council will be under the “University issues” division of UGBC, and a small allotted budget will be provided to the council for programming and other practical purposes. This year, Meyers aims to bring a speaker to campus to talk about disabilities. She hopes to cosponsor this event with another organization so that they can better pool their resources.

In general, Meyers hopes to address some of the difficulties students with disabilities encounter.

“We should look at the ways we deal with accessibility at BC and how can we improve. But we should also look at the positive and reinforce what BC is doing well,” she said.

BC has devoted a variety of resources to accommodating students and faculty with all types of disabilities and handicaps.

From a general accessibility standpoint, Meyers notes that BC recognizes that the campus is set in the hills and is therefore more challenging for handicapped students to navigate.

Still, the school has made its best efforts to accommodate them.

“Boston College has made every accommodation to ensure that our campuses are accessed by the handicapped and physically challenged.

“In addition to handicap parking spaces for those with a state handicapped placard, all our public facilities offer handicapped entrances and elevator access,” reads BC’s transportation and parking services Web site.

The Connors Family Learning Center (CFLC) is a primary resource for students with learning disabilities. It offers diagnostic services and allows students certain additional accommodations, such as extra time on tests.

The CFLC also helps professors teaching students with these disabilities by informing them about students’ individual limitations and how to work with them to ensure that they can learn the material properly.

BC also has an office of disability services within the Office of the Dean for Student Development (ODSD) with its own broader mission.

“The mission of the Disability Services Office is to assist students with disabilities at Boston College in achieving their educational, career, and personal goals through the full range of institutional and community resources. The office ensures that students with disabilities receive support services and accommodations that allow them equal access to all Boston College programs and the opportunity to realize potential and develop effective self-advocacy skill,” reads the office Web site.

Meyers, as part of her current position and as director of the Council, will continue to work with administrators from both of these offices including Kathleen Duggan, associate director for the CFLC and Suzy Conway, LICSW and assistant dean for students with disabilities.

“We’re open to all suggestions,” she said. She is still accepting any e-mails of interest and hopes that her publication within the most recent UGBC update e-mail will encourage students to get involved.

With the increased help of BC’s diverse community, the council hopes to raise awareness of its message both within and outside the disabled community.