The Olivet College Disability Rights Council (DRC) is one of the more than 60 clubs and organizations on campus, but has a message and goals unlike any other. The DRC aims to spread awareness about students and other members of the college community with disabilities and the obstacles present, both on campus and in life.
“The first goal of the DRC is to spread awareness, not only on campus but everywhere,” explained Sandi Nelson, academic accommodations coordinator and staff adviser to the DRC. “The group is getting bigger every year, and with that, its influence increases too. There’s always room for improvement and growth, and helping the people on campus be more aware about those around them with disabilities is the first step in that. For example, it’s very important to understand that not all disabilities are visible, but that doesn’t mean that a disability doesn’t exist or a student doesn’t deserve accommodations on campus.”
While Sandi is honored to lend her professional skills to the council, she emphasizes that the student-leaders of the group are the true trailblazers on campus. Junior Jeff Humphrey, president of the DRC, recognized he must be the one to take action if he wanted to see positive change, and that’s just what he’s set out to do. Jeff struggled to obtain braille reading materials and find his way around campus without braille signs during his first semesters on campus, but has since found his fit in the Elite fraternity where his brothers have helped him adjust to his surroundings. While Jeff found his own unique ways to adapt, he uses his story as a tool to advocate for future blind and visually impaired students at OC, in addition to the many other students with disabilities, both current and future.
“I hope that every day can become a little bit easier for students with disabilities,” Jeff said. “I want everybody to gain an understanding through my story, but realize it isn’t about me. The mission is to spread awareness about students with disabilities, and then to identify improvements to campus to help create a safe and welcoming environment for all students.”
During the spring Service Day in 2017, the DRC helped organize a project to place braille labels in Mott Academic Center. With assistance from Cea Noyes, J.D., Social Science Department chair and professor of sociology and anthropology, the DRC purchased a braille label maker and worked with a group of student-volunteers to mark all classrooms and offices. This semester, the DRC organized a special presentation by Paul Artale on campus on Wednesday, February 28 at 1:30 p.m. in Mott Auditorium. Paul is a work-life and motivation expert, with passions for helping others and football. He has faced many challenges, but chooses to be defined by his resilience and grit rather than his disability, and has a mission to inspire others to break down their own barriers and achieve their goals.
“We think bringing speakers to campus is a great way to spread awareness about the DRC and the American with Disabilities Act,” senior Lauren Maxam explained, who serves as vice president of the DRC. “Speakers that have a background in disabilities rights, have worked with people with disabilities or even have them themselves are a great way to spread the DRC’s mission and help further share the message that persons with disabilities are not alone. I’m really excited to get more speakers to campus and hope it helps more people join our group that have the same goals as the DRC.”
Now in its second year, the DRC has significantly grown in membership, but the council has even bigger aspirations, coining there’s always strength in numbers. The council currently has 10 members, more than tripled since the original three members founded the group. Any student, staff member or faculty member may join, and the group meets every Thursday at 8 p.m.
“It’s important that the community just realizes they’re out there,” Sandi explained, referring to students with disabilities. “Becoming a self-advocate can be really intimidating, but Jeff is a great example of how to do that. Spreading awareness within the faculty and staff is another necessary step, and will really help create common goals.”
As part of the historic Responsible Learners – Responsible Leaders comprehensive campaign, 50-year-old Mott Academic Center will be renovated. In addition to interior enhancements, a major renovation to the exterior will create an accessible entrance and inviting point of entry for all students, staff and faculty members.
Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.