A few months ago, one of my professors asked if I would speak to her class. I agreed, I always love to share personal experiences which can make a more public change. That speaking opportunity turned into an invitation to join the class in their rally before I spoke. That was surprising.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the temperature was cool, but not even freezing, so it was pretty warm for this state. Julio and I walked to Fontbonne, which happens to be where many classes are for social work. The rally began, and I shared some of my experiences with difficulties and positive changes on campus. I talked about the pain I experience on a daily basis, and how that is made worse by stairs. I described how some buildings still don't have braille signs. I described the concept of universal design, and how that could make life easier for everyone. I turned to the other student, who uses a power wheelchair, and said "It probably doesn't affect you if there aren't Braille signs,, just as the accessible buttons which open doors for you aren't helpful for me since I can't even find them."
That student also shared her perspective and how difficult it is when she can't even get into the social work office.
My professor talked about the challenges to getting funding and how there needs to be physical and social accessibility.
The director of thebachelor of social work program spoke about the importance of accessibility, and how we as social workers must support access. He also mentioned the integrative model, which I'll explain in a bit.
Also, one of the people I work with in the disability services office talked about some of the many ways in which they've seen us deal with access challenges and how they advocate for us.
I think what was best about this experience for me was to see people specifically support accessibility and suggest concrete things we can do to promote access. It's also great to see that this issue is really being taken seriously from a social work perspective. I've already seen changes, and the momentum continues.
Okay, now to explain the concept of the integrative model. Basically, in generalist social work (the type of social work practiced by social workers with a bachelor's degree), there are three levels of change, Micro, mezzo and macro practice. Indevidual, groups and communities or nations. So, as social workers, we practice on all of those levels to be effective. With disabilities and accessibility, this makes the most sense. You can teach me how to get around campus, but you won't solve the problem of access needs by doing that. So instead, you teach me how to get around campus, provide me with physical therapy, make sure that there are supports in place for students with disabilities, educate the campus community on accessibility needs and work with the community at large to provide funding for accessibility. This, friends, is why I want to be a social worker.