By NIA BENTALL
A new blog named (dis)Ability, published on the University of Mary Washington’s blog site last semester, provides an extension of support for students with disabilities on campus. The site is meant to be an outlet for students besides the office of Disability Resources.
The website was created by English Professor Chris Foss, who began the UMW Ad-hoc committee on disability.
The site is a place where anyone in the community can upload articles or thoughts on disabilities and engage in meaningful discussions through comments. “There’s so much that could happen,” said Foss, “the blog format allows for the community to make it what it wants.”
The blog also includes links to campus and local disability resources, a place where students and faculty can create their own pages, and information about campus events.
Foss says the blog fills the need at UMW for a “central location for people to look for information about disability.” Foss wants the blog to be a place for robust conversation. He adds that “blogs are ubiquitous to the UMW education, they are something that students know, and they add an element of fun.” So far, the participation on the blog has been minimal.
Nicole Dobson, the president of the new Students with Disabilities and Their Allies (SDATA) club, sees the blog as an “outlet for awareness, or a place to voice concerns, whether you have issues that need to be resolved or need support.” She also adds that there has been little participation in the blog, but hopes that will change.
Dr. Sally Scott, Director of Disability Resources, also sees the blog as a positive contribution to the UMW community. “The blog is really a chance to move beyond the very practical aspects of individual self-advocacy and into a broader conversation and awareness about disability as part of expected human diversity.”
Dobson says she wants the club and blog to be an extension of the support from the disability services offices. Foss said that he hopes the blog will help UMW “move away from a vision of disabilities services as just an office, to a way it becomes part of the community.”
Sophomore Elizabeth Storey, a student with an interest in disability, comments “Especially now with the new anonymous twitters using UMW’s name and reflecting poorly on UMW, the blog is a good way to promote positive online discussion at UMW. It’s a good outlet for people to say things where they might be silenced elsewhere.”
Scott adds “There is also the opportunity for students to be exposed to new ideas and perspectives about disability. Some students may already be tuned in to the fact that disability is being looked at in new ways including the emerging scholarly field of Disability Studies but for other students, this may be a whole new concept. If the blog exposes some students to new ways of thinking about disability and challenges some of the existing stereotypes it will have made a very valuable contribution to our community.”