LUDWiG: Promoting accessibility, visibility 

The Lawrence University Disability Working Group (LUDWiG), founded by Alex Chand ‘22, has the unique position of being both a student diversity organization and a sub-committee of the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC). Speaking with the group’s current leadership team reveals the ways in which LUDWiG has taken advantage of its leverage on campus to make meaningful change for disabled students, despite being a small and relatively newer organization. 

Chand’s mission when she started the student organization was to  help disabled students lead more successful lives on campus, according to current senior and LUDWiG co-chair Eileen Limon. Limon met Chand at a Zoom event on Autism Awareness Month during her first year.  

Remembering the event, Limon says, “I learned so much about Alex’s reasonings and how the club came to be, and it just drew me in, and ever since then I wanted to be a part of the club.” 

Felix Spaniol, also a senior and co-chair, also attended a few events during their first year, but shares that they really got invested in LUDWiG after their disabilities worsened significantly over the summer of 2021.  

“I was starting to realize that, holy crap, this campus is not accessible in a lot of ways,” Spaniol says. 

As for Rose Williams, a junior and the events and outreach coordinator, and Andy Haas, a senior and the club’s treasurer, both have had previous experience with disability awareness in school and through Boy Scouts respectively, but as Williams says, “Most of these organizations were either led by adults or by non-disabled people, so when I came to my first LUDWiG meeting, I was immediately quite happy to see that there were people with disabilities in leadership positions.”  

Williams is glad that LUDWiG focuses not only on fun and inclusive activities, but also really promoting disabled perspectives and resolving accessibility issues within the community. Similarly, Haas shares that disability advocacy has become more and more important to him over the years, leading him to joining LUDWiG last year. 

Indeed, a standard meeting in the Diversity and Intercultural Center (D&IC) consists mainly of discussing accessibility issues on campus, especially ones that have been or should be brought up in LUCC meetings, and planning events, projects and promotions to fulfill the organization’s mission, which Spaniol characterizes to be “promoting disability rights, accessibility and visibility across the Lawrence campus.” 

Meetings are also designed to be as accessible as possible in themselves, with both in-person and virtual participation options, a built-in break for people to take care of mental or physical needs, and an opportunity at every meeting for members to share any further accessibility needs or concerns they have for meetings or campus life in general. 

Williams explains that LUDWiG was finally able to push the Lawrence administration to create a dedicated Office of Accessibility Services, hiring someone whose sole job it is to ensure that disabled people are getting the accommodations that they need. This consolidates the previous system in which necessary accommodations were processed by several different departments. 

Spaniol shares what she thinks is one the most visible changes on campus thanks to LUDWiG: the sharps containers now available in bathrooms across campus.  

Two LUDWiG members, including Williams, also spent a summer working to construct curriculum modules for the Introduction to Disability Studies course, which was taught for the first time by Professor Sigma Colón in Spring Term 2023. The project was also originally spearheaded by Chand, but came to fruition after her graduation thanks to the continued tenacity of more recent LUDWiG members. 

Many still look up to Chand and credit her for inspiring them to take on leadership roles. “I looked up to Alex a lot,” Limon remembers, saying she was more than happy to take on the role of co-chair at Chand’s behest. “I was, at first, a bit overwhelmed, but reflecting back on my past experiences and Alex’s advice was really helpful.”  

Some of LUDWiG’s current projects include reviving the Accessible Technology Expo and building a Disability Justice Library. The Tech Expo, which will hopefully occur during Spring Term, allows students to interface directly with digital and analog accessibility devices that make day-to-day living easier for disabled people. LUDWiG hopes to locate the Disability Library in the D&IC and stock it with books of all genres, as long as they center disability.  

One of the club’s biggest internal goals at the moment is increasing membership. “A lot of us are going to be graduating in the next year,” Williams says of the current leadership team, “so we’d really like to get more people engaged and regularly attending meetings so that we have people who can fill these roles.”  

Despite a huge email roster and good turnout at special events, very few people are regular attendees of LUDWiG’s meetings. Spaniol cites the “Lawrence Busy” as a potential reason, along with the fact that disabled students, who are of course LUDWiG’s target audience, often have a lower capacity for extracurriculars. Limon’s hope, though, is that a large membership will mean the ability to spread LUDWiG’s workload, continuing the momentum of the club’s imperative mission.