While going over the equity section of the annual report at TRUSU’s annual general meeting, a student presented a question to the executive: Why does the union not have a students with disabilities representative, and are there plans to include representation in the future?
Matthew Brown, a second-year computing science student who has a disability, raised the concern to members and executives that the board of directors currently does not have representation for students with disabilities.
What TRUSU does have is five advocacy representatives, for Aboriginal students, graduate students, international students, women and members of the LGBTQ community. And after passing their special resolutions at the annual general meeting, the list now also includes a visible minorities representative.
Dylan Robinson, equity coordinator for TRUSU, responded to Brown by saying there has been no proposal to include a representative for students with disabilities. Robinson also said that TRU has an obligation to provide accommodation for those students and that from what he has heard, students are generally satisfied with Disability Services.
Brown, expressing his personal opinions after the meeting, agrees with Robinson that students are satisfied by the efforts of the disability services office. However, he believes that the student union should consider a representative for students with disabilities and commit to spreading awareness in the community on disabilities in order to reduce the stigma around them.
“I just think that TRUSU should have people representing people with disabilities. Even if it’s not to actually make changes with the university itself, at least to actually raise awareness for disabilities so that people don’t view it with as much of a negative stigma anymore,” Brown said.
By speaking publicly at the annual general meeting, Brown hoped that he could “get the initial rocks flowing for the landslide” in representing students with disabilities in the student union.
In addition to being able to advocate on issues surrounding disabilities on campus, Brown thinks that having a disabilities representative on the board would provide a positive role model to students with disabilities and publicly illustrate that students with disabilities are just as capable of being successful as their counterparts.
“Though it’s still not as common because of the century we are in, people still tend to have some sort of bias against, or for, people with disabilities,” Brown said, adding that he usually does not reveal his disability until people get to know him in order to avoid judgment.
Brown, who is a member of the Computing Science Club and Kappa Sigma fraternity, hopes that all students with disabilities register with Disability Services to get accommodation and consider joining one of many clubs on campus to make connections and get support.