On any given day, the Student Union is filled with students studying, getting coffee at the coffee shop and playing cards at the tables. But on Thursday, May 16, Rotaract Club’s Ability Experience interrupted the ordinary chaos of the C building.
The Rotaract Club set up three different stations where students could experience what it is like to be disabled, even for just a few minutes at a time. The first station had students put on blindfolds provided by the Disability Resource Center. They were then led around campus by a guide to experience blindness. The second station had students put on special earmuffs that block out all sound, also provided by the DRC, to experience deafness. The third and most popular station had wheelchairs, and students had to roll from the C building to the DRC and back.
Brandon Horne, a participant in the event, gained “a whole new respect” for disabled people after completing the wheelchair station. “My arms are throbbing. How do they get up hills so quickly?”
Horne’s response was exactly what the Rotaract Club was hoping for.
“This is an annual event that we do every year because we feel that it’s important to always remind ourselves how it is to be disabled and what they face every day so we can feel grateful and so we can see what [disabled people are] going through and appreciate them,” said Rotaract Club President Maye Ismail.
“When students put themselves in the shoes of disabled people, they can understand more about how they are doing a great job of coping with their disability, and at the same time, they learn to respect them,” added Natasha Wijoyo, a club member and event volunteer.
According to Community Service Chair Michelle Ho, the Rotaract Club has been planning the event since January. They coordinated with the DRC, who had their own booth outside the C building, where students could ask questions and get more information on what the DRC offers, as well as disabilities in general. The Ability Experience is an annual event for the club, but this year there were a few changes. First, the event lasted only one day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., instead of two days like the previous year, and they moved the event from the gym to the C building. Ho and Ismail said that they decided to move because a lot of people didn’t know where the gym was, and the C building is a high-traffic area on campus, which they hoped would attract more participants.
Overall, the Rotaract Club considered the event a success. “Most people say they didn’t know how difficult it really is to have to move around campus with all of this,” said Ho.
“A lot of people say this is the most meaningful event they’ve ever attended, and this made them have a different view on disabled people,” added Ismail. “It’s a very positive reaction.”