Queen's Accessibility Hub


Accessibility Hub

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Melissa Vassallo on disability - Queen's Accessibility Hub

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My name is Melissa Vassallo and I'm a Disability Advocate. I'm a proud alumni of Queen's University.

Accessibility is a hard word for some people because they don't really know what it means. People are afraid of the word disability. Do I say I'm disabled? Do they bring it up? Do they ask me if I need help?

I just find that people are really unsure about what the world of disability and accessibility is all about and it's one that I welcome with open arms. I want the dialogue to be free-flowing and everyone feel that they have a space where they can feel comfortable talking about disability, accessibility and the important issues.

And when the accident happened, it was five Queen's students going on Spring break from Queen's to Florida and I was lying in the hospital bed. I had this really amazing opportunity. I knew what life was like pre-accident and now here I was post-accident. And post-accident I didn't have access to all the same amenities and really the same life that I had pre-accident and that bothered me.

Why was I any different? I was the same person inside. I had the same hopes and the same dreams and yet, I did not have access to the same life. That really irked me and it sparked something inside of me. It wanted me to make a change and at first I started out small. I started working on different accessibility committees in my community to try to help make my community a better place and one win led to another win to another win until I realized that my personal goal and mission was to reach out to as many people as I could to share what it's like being a person with a disability - what it's like to not have access to your own life.

And that's what the Disability Movement is all about. It's providing access. It's ensuring that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to have the life that they really want to have.

And that's exciting to me. It's that ripe environment for change. So it just really gives me passion and inspires me to reach out to that individual who doesn't understand that people with disabilities should have the same access. I should be able to go to any building on campus that I want. I should be able to go out with my friends at night and feel comfortable and safe. I should feel comfortable working with my classmates in a classroom and not worrying about what stigmas are they holding against me?

Will no one want to be in my group? Will I be working on my own? Will my professor understand that I need an extension on my paper or that I need extra help?

All of these extra components that people with disabilities face adds up to a really hard and challenging life and that's why I think people with disabilities are so special because they are so hard working, because they make it happen for themselves. It's because they know that this is their one life and they are going to make it the best life that they can for themselves.

The onus is on us and I think the onus really is on everybody to ensure that everybody is included that we all feel that we have access to the life that we really want and that is what I think the Accessibility Hub is trying to do. It's trying to foster those relationships and that dialogue of people with disabilities without disabilities.