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Hodgins working to make BU more accessible

The Brandon Sun - 11/23/2018

Growing up with a disability had its challenges for 24-year-old Brandon University student Whitney Hodgins.

Hodgins, who has autism, said she always had issues getting access to support and services.

"I grew up in a time that wasn't as supportive of my disability, where even after a certain age range you no longer qualified for those services," she said.

Hodgins hopes to help make life easier for people living with a disability, which is why she helped create the school's first accessibility week, coming up Dec. 3-5 on campus.

"It's going to be centred towards kind of just opening up dialogue," she said. "It will also showcase the resources that are available, not just in Brandon, but also on campus that students can access."

The week's creation has been a collaboration with Student Accessibility Services. It will be open to the public to attend, Hodgins said, and will be beneficial to current and future students as well as general community members to check out.

"It's good for people who wish to know more about resources (to) come down to campus to see what we offer," she said. "Even if it's a parent who has a child who's in high school who has a disability just finding out what Brandon University offers, they're more than welcome to come down and (take a) look."

The week will also be dedicated to commemorating International Day of Disabled Persons, which is on Dec. 3. There will be different events going on throughout the week which people can attend, including student speakers, a presentation and movie.

"We'll be showcasing students on our campus who have accessibility needs and talking about some of their day to day experiences," she said. "We also have an accessibility Manitoba presentation going on, and then we're going to kind of finish off the week with a movie for parents and kids to come to and have a discussion surrounding the film's themes with regard to disabilities."

Hodgins' goal is to make people feel like they're included, regardless of what disability they may have -- a goal she aspires to meet through various efforts on campus.

"I'm hoping that people with disabilities can access post-secondary education and feel supported while they're completing their studies," she said "(I work) providing input on policies with regards to making sure there's events that are centred towards people with accessibility needs. So if they want to attend an event, we have to make sure that the location and what's going on is accessible as well, so that they can participate to the fullest."

Hodgins is the accessibility director on the Brandon University Students' Union, and the accessibility commissioner at the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba.

Juggling her own studies as a double major in anthropology and history with the extra work she does can be difficult, she said.

"It's challenging, but it also provides me with structure to my daily living to allow me to focus on what's important and narrow things down," she said.

The important thing, she added, is that they're continuing to make progress from when she was growing up.

"We're starting to gain momentum, where it's becoming more inclusive."

» mverge@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @Melverge5

 
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