UCC’s inaugural Disability Awareness Week was held on campus recently. From the 31st of January to the 3rd of February, a number of events were run around the university to spread awareness of physical disabilities and the challenges met by those who have them. It was organised by UCC Disability Support Student Officer, Antonia Virovska.
“It was run for two reasons”, she explained regarding why the awareness week was organised. “There are obviously students with disabilities in UCC, and some of them might not feel properly integrated with the college society. That was one of the reasons why it was run, just to create a better community of people who have disabilities and bring them together.
“The second reason why it was run was to create awareness so that people who don’t have a disability are more able to relate to someone who does. It was run from two viewpoints; people with disabilities and people without. “
Several different events to help spread awareness were held on each day. An opening talk was given by Mary O’Grady, the head of UCC Disability Support Services, Linda Kelly of the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (AHEAD), and Sinead Kane, Ireland’s first blind solicitor and a graduate of UCC.
A wheelchair basketball game was held in the Maradyke Sports Arena between a team from the Irish Wheelchair Association and a mix of players from the UCC Demons and Neptune Basketball Clubs. The week concluded with a talk given by Dr. Louise Crowley on the legislation surrounding education for disabled students.
A 24 Hour Wheelchair Challenge was held on the second day of the week. Students who took part in this had to experience life as a wheelchair bound student for a day, while raising awareness and funds of over €300 for the Irish Wheelchair Association. Students who participated in this were UCCSU Welfare Officer Padraig Rice, Ben Honan , Paraig McElligot , Emmet Curtin and Susan O’Sullivan.
“It made me aware of everyday obstacles that I would never have thought twice about before” said Ms. O’Sullivan when asked on her experiences of living on a wheelchair. “Opening doors was a big thing, the lift to the Boole that is ‘wheelchair accessible’ does not have a button to automatically open the door, which makes it very difficult to manoeuvre. The lift in Brookfield is much better as the door opens automatically.
“The only bar which is accessible on campus is the New Bar, even though I couldn’t reach the counter to order a drink. Also, wheelchair ramps are not easy to get up; every little incline feels like a mountain and the arms start burning pretty quickly. ”
“I think (that the Disability Awareness Week) was a success”, said Ms. Virovska. “It was a great success in raising awareness, and is something that can be improved upon in the next few years. I think it will provide a good template for future Disability Support Officers to work from.”