Don’t DisAbility is a society that stemmed from the success of last February’s disability awareness week of the same name. And within two months of their establishment, they went on their first society outing.
The society was formed this September, created by the demand for a continuation of the work done last year that raised awareness of physical and mental disabilities. In that time, it has gained over 20 members who have raised £600 through cake sales, and they used this funding to go on their first trip; the members took a vote and decided on the Eden Project.
For once, the rain held off, and the sun was shining over the biodomes as the coach arrived. With the initial café pit-stop out of the way, the groups headed off into the rainforest with bellies full of cake and coffee. The morning adventures consisted of exotic plants and battles with seemingly-autonomous electric wheelchairs, but before long it was time for the next activity: ice skating. A few of the members wanted to try out Eden’s seasonal ice-rink, and so for 40 minutes were in hysterics as they took to the ice; there were a few gentle tumbles but overall it was a snowy success. Then there was lunch, the other domes, the compulsory gift-shop tour, and for two students the famous Skywire ride (the zip wire over Eden), before the cacti-bearing group made their way back to the coach.
This outing was a huge landmark for a society that is still in its very early days. When president Mackinlay Ingham established it this September, her aim was to create a singular platform which was open to people of all abilities, whether they identified themselves as being disabled or not.
‘Some students here are third years, who have never, before joining this group, done any social activities because nobody offered them that support. The main reason that students come to university is for the ‘student experience’, which is not handing your deadlines in and getting firsts; it’s going out and experiencing things, meeting people and socialising, maybe trying some alcohol. That opportunity, for whatever reason, is very difficult for some students.’
‘Don’t DisAbility is about providing a safe space that caters for the student’s needs which are not covered by the university, so going on accessible, safe trips are really important.’
For some students, the significance of this trip laid in the fact that it was entirely covered by their own hard work. One student said ‘the fact that we were able to do it off our own backs, through fundraising, is an empowering feeling.’ The society is created to be entirely member-led, creating opportunities to gain important work, life, and people skills, building student confidence in a very safe environment. But perhaps more than this, it is creating a social opportunity for those who have not been offered such a space before. ‘Everyone in this society has something about them which makes them a bit different. Even though we all have completely stuff going on, it’s really nice that everyone gets it, they understand.’
There is certainly more to come from this society; keep an eye out for Don’t DisAbility Week mark two coming in February – if they can organise and fund a trip to the Eden Project in just two months, then I have no doubt that they will continue to achieve many great things.