December 3rd marks International Day of Disability. It is estimated that around one billion people are living with disabilities worldwide and face many barriers of inclusion in various different key aspects of society. This day aims to promote empowerment and help to create real opportunities for people with disabilities.
We spoke with the current Barts and The London Disabled and Specific Learning Differences, Jack Juckes, around his plans for the year and why he thinks International Day of is so important!
What do you hope to achieve within your role this year?
Whilst there are definitely specific issues around accessibility and disability that need addressing at BL, I think the biggest thing for me this year is to open up the discourse around these issues amongst students as much as possible. Disability, specific learning difficulties, accessibility, and mental health are all relatively taboo subjects amongst the general student population but even more so amongst healthcare and health-science students. If these students feel represented and validated by the end of the academic year then I'll be happy! I have already achieved some of my goals for the year, such as changing QMSU policies, holding our first BL Disabilities Awareness Week, and setting up our first BL Disabled Students' Forum. Other things I hope to achieve are getting lendable coloured overlays for Whitechapel Library, lobbying for accessibility improvements to campus spaces, and a successful Mental Health Awareness Fortnight with Alice, our BL Welfare Officer.
2. Why did you decide to run?
In previous years the BL Disabled and SLD Representative position has been unfilled or underutilised, and our disabled students deserve the same level of visibility and support that is achieved by the other fantastic liberation groups and campaigns at QMSU and BLSA. I'm really passionate about equal opportunities and accessibility, and so this was a great way to continue my involvement with the union whilst making positive change for students.
3. Why do you think it’s important that International Day of Disability is recognised?
Disability is not a homogenous entity - it is so varied and means such different things to people based on their own lived experiences. It's so important for the general public to understand this, and to keep an open mind when considering the abilities of others. Not all disabilities are visible, and not everyone will understand even a visible disability, and so initiatives like International Day of Disability will hopefully educate the general public to be open-minded, unpresumptuous, and kind-natured when considering whether someone is disabled and what their disability means to them in their own experiences.
4. Who is your biggest inspiration?
I would struggle to identify one person as my biggest inspiration as I have so many! I definitely draw inspiration from everyone around me in my daily life - all my friends and family who have had personal struggles with disabilities and mental health problems but push through, and still find time to care about others. These are my real everyday heroes.