Ole Miss’s Student Disability Services have partnered with the Campus Recreation department to create more disability-friendly activities on campus.
Karolyne Rehner, graduate assistant for Student Disability Services and recreational therapist, said the goal of these programs is to help students and community members with disabilities participate in physical activities that they may not be able to partake in otherwise. So far, Student Disability Services has worked with Ole Miss Outdoors to organize a hike on the Thacker Mountain Trails on March 1, weather permitting, and a canoe trip at Wall Doxey State Park on March 22. In addition, Campus Recreation will be offering wheelchair basketball as an intramural sport this spring.
“We really want to see the campus become more disability-friendly and break down the stigma that comes along with disability,” Rehner said. “What we’re also trying to provide is a unique way for people to bond with each other.”
Rehner also stated none of these activities are intended solely for students with disabilities. All are welcome, including community members and students without disabilities.
Katherine Westfall, graduate assistant for Ole Miss Outdoors, noted that the whole point of these activities is to create unity between students with and without disabilities, which is why the activities are all-inclusive and unifying.
“It really opens your eyes to who’s out there,” Westfall said about working with disabled students. “Humanity really is such a broad spectrum.”
On Thursday, Student Disability Services will be hosting a disability etiquette class in preparation for the intramural season. This is taking place so that coaches and officials will be well informed on how to interact with participants with special needs.
“We’re just trying to address a need that some people on this campus might not even realize is a need,” Rehner said.
In addition, more disability-inclusive programs may make Ole Miss more appealing to prospective students with special needs. Rehner pointed out that Ole Miss will be the first university in the state to host programs of this kind.
Any student with a disability or chronic illness may contact Student Disability Services at SDSGA@olemiss.edu.