New Disability Working Group focuses on campus accessibility

Lawrence University Disability Working Group (LUDWiG) is a new student organization on campus devoted to discussing disability and making Lawrence more accessible. 

Senior Alex Chand, who founded LUDWiG last term, said that the inspiration came from frustration with inaccessibility on campus and speaking with other Lawrence students about their experiences during an inclusion summit last summer. 

“I realized that …I wasn’t ready to have a conversation around specific disabilities because there were larger issues on campus that wouldn’t be addressed if it was a narrow, specific thing,” Chand said. “I realized that it needed to be a really large-scale conversation, and it needed to involve students, faculty and staff.” Chand continued, “I started drafting over the summer — How do we have these conversations? How do we facilitate change on campus? How do we make sure that these conversations we’re having are relevant and integrated into other existing conversations? Disability doesn’t exist in a vacuum; disability is one aspect of identity, and it intersects with every other aspect.” 

This resulted in the creation of LUDWiG, a student group that promotes discussion and action on the issues related to disability at Lawrence. LUDWiG’s activities include monthly social mixers, meetings with the administration and facilities, a weekly Chronic Illness Support Group and large-scale campus events like the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service disability advocacy workshop earlier this month. 

“It’s nice because this group is kind of pulling the conversation together,” Chand said. “People are having these conversations, but they’re usually behind closed doors, and people with disabilities often aren’t in the room. It’s really great that, all of a sudden, if you want to have a conversation about something related to disability and any other intersection, [LUDWiG is a] network for that to happen.” 

LUDWiG’s monthly social mixer, held over Zoom, is an opportunity for Lawrence students to get to know one another and discuss their experiences, according to senior Jojo Maier, LUDWiG’s social coordinator. This month’s social mixer takes place tonight, Jan. 29, at 8 p.m. The mixer is structured around questions and discussion but is also a place for students to socialize. Questions that will be discussed at the mixer can be found on LUDWiG’s Facebook page, @LawrenceUniDisability. 

In addition to these events, LUDWiG is working with the administration and other groups on campus to make the Lawrence campus more physically accessible and up to the standards outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

In terms of the organization’s long-term goals, member junior Maria Jankowski hopes that it can be involved in developing the “curriculum or series of classes that makes talking about disability more open to Lawrentians, that really focuses on the disabled voice.” Currently, Lawrence does not have any programs dedicated to disability studies. While some high-level courses relate to disability, they require prerequisites and are not accessible to most students outside of the major. 

Chand also hopes that LUDWiG will someday be funded in an official capacity and that space dedicated to discussing disability will be a part of the Lawrence campus in the future. 

More information on LUDWiG is available on Facebook @LawrenceUniDisability or in the Disability Working Group Moodle course.