Barrier Day opens students’ eyes

Cassie Riley

Although he couldn’t see what he was doing and his fingers were smeared in peanut butter, Kevin Modlin didn’t stop.

The blindfolded Bowling Green senior finished making his sandwich Tuesday and wrapped it in a napkin.

He was one of many students who took part in Western’s first-ever Barrier Day Tuesday at Downing University Center.

The event was established as part of National Disabilities Awareness Month to raise awareness of the challenges that disabled students face on Western’s campus.

Equal Opportunities Coordinator Sam Starks said Barrier Day will be held yearly at Western.

Faculty, staff and students gathered Tuesday to celebrate this year’s Barrier Day by participating in several challenging activities.

The activities included a wheelchair obstacle course to illustrate the difficulty of getting around campus without the use of legs. Other students were blindfolded and asked to make a peanut butter sandwich or to pour a glass of water.

Modlin allowed himself to be blindfolded while he tried to pour water into a glass without spilling it.

“I cheated,” he said.

Modlin had previously watched a blind student successfully pour a glass of water by putting their finger in the glass to feel the level of the water so it didn’t spill over.

Matt Davis, coordinator of Student Disability, helped those that tried to complete the wheelchair obstacle course.

While sitting in a wheelchair, students had to maneuver between chairs and over an unfolded table which represented a raised barrier.

After they had gotten over the table, they had to move themselves from the wheelchair to a normal chair without the use of their legs.

“This is what these people go through,” Starks said.

Many of the students that tried to tackle the course said they found it difficult.

“They make it look easier than what it really is,” Bowling Green sophomore Shaden Melky said.

Melky participated in the obstacle course that her mother, Huda Melky, Equal Opportunity and ADA compliance director, had helped set up.

Bowling Green Mayor Sandy Jones also gave the wheelchair obstacle course a try.

She said it helps students see how people with disabilities deal with them.

“People with disabilities are not disabled,” Jones said. “They just have different challenges.”

Lisa Newton, a junior from Tell City, Ind., agreed.

Newton was born with glaucoma, a disease of the eye that causes gradual loss of eyesight. The disease continued to dissipate Newton’s vision as she grew older.

At 15, Newton went through a surgery to restore some of her vision. But due to complications, Newton lost all of her vision.

“It can give (the students) some idea of what’s going on,” Newton said. “But I don’t think the simulation even touches the surface.”

According to Newton, the disability itself is not the hardest part. Instead, she points to a different strain.

“It’s the impediment that society places on the individual,” Newton said. “It’s having to prove yourself over and over and over again.”

Although she said she can’t speak for everyone with a disability, Newton believes students would have a better understanding of disabled students if they too had to prove themselves in a like manner.

Louisville junior Jenell Glymph said she couldn’t imagine not having the use of her legs.

Since most students can use their legs to get around campus, she said, they don’t think about how difficult it is for students who use wheelchairs.

Glymph said that the simulation teaches students a valuable lesson: that everyone should be happy with what they have.

Reach Cassie Riley at [email protected]