Disabled Awareness Day promotes self-advocacy for disabled students


Joe Bergman

Former BC professor Chuck Wall speaks about his continued “Random Acts of Kindness” campaign.

Carl E. Littleberry Jr., Reporter

Bakersfield College hosted its first Disabled Awareness Day in the BC fireside room Oct. 28. The event consisted of a four-person panel, and lectures from guest speakers Traci Mensch and Chuck Wall, an author and former BC professor who also happens to be blind.

With the goal of self-advocacy for disabled students in mind, Terri Goldstein, the director of disabled students programs and services at BC, focused on letting disabled students know they aren’t alone. “We’re here to help those students who feel like they can’t help themselves. Not like a voice for them but more so someone backing them so they can have a voice themselves,” said Goldstein.

She later opened the floor for the Q&A portion of the proceeding, letting the panel explain their personal challenges they go through as a student on a day-to-day basis. Delving into subjects such as access to public restrooms or using desks, the panel opened up about the current level of support BC provides for the disabled community.

BC sophomore Ezekiel Martinez doesn’t understand the lack of accessibility on campus, citing problems in maintenance around campus for elevators and lack of support from faculty.

“People don’t realize how hard it really is to get around campus when your in a wheelchair,” Martinez said. “I use my arms to get me everywhere and that’s a lot of weight. I’m a big guy. So you can imagine how I feel when I get to the library and the elevator isn’t working. I have to go all the way around the side just to go downstairs.”

Another panelist, BC sophomore Javier Vargas, sees the problems more as unavoidable considering your disability saying that the school is doing everything they can to help.

“Being a little person makes it hard for me to sit in chairs in class, so I will usually have someone lift me up,” Vargas said. “The school can’t pay someone to lift me up all the time so how could I complain about that.”

After the panel wrapped up its Q&A, Wall made his way to the podium to talk to the audience about his life and hardships he faced being a disabled man. Wall hit on such topics as public transportation, and lack of programs centered on helping disabled people.

He also spoke about his many books and humanitarian foundation known as Random acts of Kindness, asking the audience to care more for kindness then violence.

“I started this because the world only pays attention to violence,” he said. “So I thought to myself, why we can’t pay attention to kindness. So I started it as an assignment for my human relations college class years ago and still here today advocating not only for the disabled community but for kindness.”

To close the event, Wall offered a suggestion to disabled students at BC telling them to remember that no one will speak up for you if you don’t first.

“I was once a student and let’s just say colleges haven’t always been so accommodating,” said Wall. “Yes, I had to work harder than most, but the thing is I still did it. Just because I was blind, that wasn’t going to stop me. even when schools like UCLA only offered me an idiot-proof type writer because the words were bigger and easier to read that wasn’t going to stop me.”