As the school year kicks off, students may be looking for more ways they can get involved with MU other than just attending class. One way students can meet new people, improve the campus and advocate for something that they care about is to join the Mizzou Unity Coalition.
MUC President Ellie Stitzer said MUC is an organization that advocates for students with disabilities. Stitzer said currently most members do not have a disability, so one of their goals for this school year is to encourage more students from the disability community to join. There is also no longer an application to join the club, so now it is easier than it ever has been to become a member.
MUC puts a lot of different events throughout the year to promote and educate students, faculty and administrators about accessibility. One of Stitzer’s personal favorite events that MUC puts on is the annual Accessibility Walk, which will be on Oct. 26.
“The Accessibility Walk is where we take administrators around campus and show them the current state of accessibility at MU,” Stitzer said. “We point out good things and some things that could use some improvement. Because a lot of people don’t even realize that a lot of the things we point out are even an issue, we’ve seen some progress over time from the walk.”
All students are welcome to join MUC, no matter if they have a disability or not. A few of their members, such as Vice President Emily Reuther, have a personal connection to the disability community.
“I grew up with a brother who has cerebral palsy,” Reuther said. “He is 24, and he has been in a wheelchair for his entire life, so he is very dependent on my family. So that very personal connection to the disabled community led me to want to make a more accessible and inclusive campus because it is something very important to me. I feel like everyone should have the same opportunities, no matter their ability.”
Mizzou Unity Coalition is heavily involved in the Disability Center’s Celebrate Ability Week, which will be held Oct. 1-5. One of their biggest events of the year is Campus Quest, which is essentially a scavenger hunt around campus geared toward students and organizations. The goal is to show students which places on campus are better to hold events at, based on accessibility. Reuther calls this event a teaching tool because it is a way to show students how they can make their events more accessible to everyone. It’s also just a fun way to show students the kind of things MUC is doing on campus.
“One of the things we are able to show off during Campus Quest and the Accessibility Walk is that last year we received a grant to change all of the parking signs from using outdated terms,” Reuther said. “We were able to change them from saying ‘Handicapped parking’ to ‘accessible parking.’ We’ve also changed all of the accessible doors at MU from having the passive wheelchair signs where the wheelchair is sitting still, to an active sign, where the wheelchair is being pushed by the person in it. By doing this, it promotes that having a disability isn’t a hinderance.”
But outside of advocating for the disability community and holding events, MUC is also a family. As Alexis Cettina, the adaptability and accessibility chair, puts it, MUC is a group of likeminded people who want to better the MU campus and support each other in the process.
“A lot of times, it is difficult to speak to other students on campus about my experiences as a student with a disability because they have no idea where I'm coming from or what I've been through,” Cettina said. “MUC is a community where I can openly talk about my experiences and gain new perspectives because it is a group of people who are willing to work together to fix problems on campus that most people don’t even know exist.”
The Mizzou Unity Coalition will have its first meeting in the next couple of weeks, although the date and location are to be determined.
Edited by Alexandra Sharp | firstname.lastname@example.org