March 1, 2021

Disability Dialogues Podcast

Disability Dialogues Podcast LogoWe are pleased to share that our Disability Dialogues program has now expanded a podcast as well. This podcast focuses on taking a look into topics related to disability, diversity, accessibility, social justice and so much more. Each new episode will feature special guests and share the voices and experiences of students, faculty, staff, and community members.

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You can find and subscribe to this podcasting on your favorite podcast app including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Breaker, RadioPublic, PocketCasts, etc. Be sure to subscribe to catch all future episodes.

Latest Episode

Episode 7 Transcript

{Intro Music} 

Joe: Hello, and welcome to Disability Dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center at Colorado State University. I’m you’re host, Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he, him, and his and I’m an accommodations specialist at the Student Disability Center. Welcome to season two of the Disability Dialogues podcast. Fir our first episode, we’re going to do something a bit different and bring you an episode from another podcast. 

Over the summer we collaborated with the CSU Campus Rec and their podcast Rec Ramble for an episode about accessibility and inclusivity at campus rec. We hope you enjoy today’s conversation. 

Lily: Hi, everyone. I’m Lily. I’m the host for Rec Ramble. I’m an outreach assistant here at Colorado State, um, Campus Rec. Um, and my pronouns are she, her and hers. I have two special guests with us today. Um, Joe, if you want to go ahead and introduce yourself.  

Joe: Hello, everyone, my name is Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he, him, and his. I work at the Colorado State University Student Disability center as an accommodation specialist. And I also host our podcast, which is entitled Disability Dialogues.  

Lily: And then we also have Torin with us today. 

Torin: Hello, glad to be here. I’m Torin Kaletsky, he him his, and I work here in Campus Recreation as the assistant director of fitness. 

Lily: I’m very excited to have everyone here this is this podcast is a long time coming. We’ve been planning this for a while just trying to figure everything out.  

Joe: Only a few months. 

Lily: Only a few months, just the entire summer and nothing special. But. Um, so today we’re going to talk about um, how the Rec is inclusive, how the Rec, um, could improove it’s inclusivity with, um, people who experience disability.  

Lily: So, um, yeah, we’re going to start out with talking about like, what is Campus Rec and what does it offer.  

Campus Rec to me is a little more than a gym. Um, we offer a lot more than just weights and cardio machines. The classes are important. I think, um, like the community we have is super important, whether that’s through intramurals, or club sports, and just the community of like the people that work here. So, um, I think it is a large community. And I think it’s very special. Um, does anyone else or Torin do you want to talk a little bit? 

Torin: Yeah, so my area is the group and yoga classes that we offer. And our instructors are fantastic. They are also well trained, and so personable and delightful. And every time someone comes into a class, we want to welcome them and greet them and make them feel like they’re part of a community that what they’re doing here is not just moving their bodies, but enjoying community with old friends and new friends and having the opportunity to grow and learn things about themselves and to just enjoy themselves whether they’re working hard or not. So I think you’re right, the Rec is really more than a gym. And it’s more than a place where you come to exercise.  

Lily: Yeah, I totally agree. Joe, have you ever used the Campus Rec here? 

Joe: Yeah, I’ve used the Rec, um, not as much as I wish I had, um,  

Lily: {Laughter}  

Joe:  definitely used it during some time when I was a student employee, I’m hoping now that I have a staff member to, um, you know, get a staff membership at some point and start using it more. Um, I do have to say I think from a disability inclusion standpoint, and just I think the Rec is a really great place. Because It’s a place to support student, you know, health and wellness. And I think for lots of different kinds of students with different kinds of disabilities, the Rec can be a really good place to support them. Whether it be you know, some students find, like working out really supportive for their mental health, um, doing things like being in the pool, or the sauna that can be really helpful for you know, your physical wellness, and depending on different conditions, what could be helpful for supporting just overall wellness. And so I think for our students this can be a really supportive place to be because of the services and resources it offers. 

Lily: Yeah, I 100% agree with that. As a student employee at the Rec. I know we want to serve as a safe place for everyone who comes in, whether that be, um, you know, someone who experiences disabilities, someone who, um, like someone who, um, like we want to serve all genders, make that a safe place for everyone. Um, so I think it’s just really important that it is considered a safe place for everyone that comes in not just able bodied people. 

Torin: Yeah, I mean, we talk so much in fitness and recreation about how people don’t feel safe coming into fitness space, because they feel like they’re going to be judged that they don’t look the right way or they don’t lift heavy enough or they can’t run far enough for long enough. And regardless, um, of whatever you’re coming in with whether you identify as disabled or non-disabled, whether you think that you’re a trained athlete, or you’re someone who’s coming in for the first time, I really think that the Rec Center is a place for you. And I think you really need to come here and experience it for yourself to make that judgment. 

Lily: Yeah, even, um, for me, I am an able-bodied person and I still get nervous coming into the gym sometimes. Just because I again, yeah, I’m not some heavy lifter that is coming to the gym all the time, but it does really help my mental health. So I think it’s important to make sure that everyone feels welcome.  

Um, and then I wanted to talk a little bit about how the Rec works to be an inclusive and accessible space. Did you, Torin, did you want to talk a little bit on that or do you want me to take it away a little? 

Torin: Sure. I’ll start with the area that I supervise. So with our classes. We have a lot of training with our staff to make sure that when someone comes in whether we’ve seen them for the first time, or we’re seeing them week after week that we always ask, Does anyone have any limitations or considerations that you want to share so that I can make this class safe for you. And so like, personally, I have a wrist injury. So I always let the instructor know, hey, I can’t do a one-armed plank, or I can’t do this and that, and then they know to go off that information and to make any adjustments or variations to the workout, not just specifically for me, but as options that are available to everyone. So instead of doing a plank on your wrist, you have plank on your side is just a simple example. And so if someone comes in and they are a wheelchair user, or they have low vision, or there’s some other sort of consideration that they want to share with the instructor, which nobody has to do people have entitlement to privacy, and they can always share that one-on-one with the instructor or not at all. The instructor can use that information and say, Oh, well, instead of holding a dumbbell or a barbell, we’ve got bands that you can wrap around your forearm, or that you can loop over your upper arm or lower legs. So there’s so many variations that the instructors are trained and prepared to give to make sure that nobody leaves feeling like they were unable to complete the class. 

Lily: I love that. Yeah, I think that’s so important. I would get a lot of Tiktok workout videos, and a lot that I’ve been seeing lately are, um,  like the intense version, and then they called it Oh, gosh, what did they call it? It was something of like a Sunday, it was called like the Sunday morning version or something like that.  

Torin: Oh, I really like that. 

Lily: Yeah, and so, um, I like that. Because, you know, there’s a bunch of influencers that like do workout videos and all that stuff. And it’s like, oh my gosh, that’s intense. And they’re like, I can’t do that not everyone on TikTok can do that, like, That’s ridiculous. And so I’ve really enjoyed seeing that, like, the Sunday morning version.  

Torin: Um hmm  

Lily: And being able to do that if I’m like, injured or not feeling well enough, or for people who are on TikTok that aren’t like 100% able-bodied. I think that’s really important to be inclusive, even like on the internet.  

Torin: Sure,   

Lily: you know?  

Joe: Yeah, I think when we think about, you know, being adaptable and inclusive, um, that being able to be adaptable and flexible in how a class is structured, or how our workout is offered is so critical, not just, not just for supporting disabled people, but for supporting all people, because not everybody, like you said, comes in having been, you know, working out for a long time. Somebody could be coming to their first class and diving in and doing these complex, things can be really overwhelming and intimidating. And so being able to be responsive and adaptable is just, I think, a good practice for everything.  

Torin: Such a good point, Joe. And like, I talked about how, as instructors, we can give variations or progressions or regressions based on people’s, um, stated limitations. But it’s not just about if someone says, “Oh, I had sprained my ankle, and I need modification to this squat”. It’s also “Hey, if you want to do a standing squat, versus doing a jumping squat, ah, there’s all those ways to jump in”. So there’s multiple levels for every move and for every class. So something that I think I’m most proud of with the way that we offer our programs is that someone can come in who’s visiting the Rec Center for their first time and someone can come who is a regular and who trains and climbs fourteeners regularly, and they can both enjoy the same class by using those scaled levels of the instructor will provide. So using different forms of resistance using different intensities that are provided. And both have a really great time and get a really great workout. 

Lily: I think Yeah, just allowing everyone to get the kind of workout they need and not just, um, so okay, yeah, like an example. Kind of a segue-ish situation, but I played volleyball, um, in high school and basically for like 10 years, and my, ah, coach’s philosophy was always coach, the best player and then everyone else has to keep up.  

Torin: hmmm 

Lily: And yes, that’s good for a team, I guess, but it’s not inclusive, and it’s super hard to have that mentality when working out in general.  

Torin: Yeah.  

Lily: So that I think is what kind of scared me a little bit coming in, like coming back to like working out, you know, and, um, getting some reps in is being like “well, I’m not the best in the gym, obviously. But now I kind of feel like I need to like work out like the best person in the gym”.  

Torin: um, hmm. 

Lily: And so I think it’s really important that you and other people are trained to have those other options and level of difficulty in your classes. 

Torin: Yeah, yeah, I resonate with that so much because and I’ve heard this story from so many people who are afraid to come take our classes. Ah, I went to a class once at a big box gym and it was a yoga class and I was super excited. You know I’m very very tight throughout my muscles like I’ve never the most bendy person  

Lily: Yeah {laughter} 

Torin: but I showed up wanting to you know, have a have a good experience and the instructor, um, like was sitting on the floor and bent her knees and planted her feet, she was “okay, and you’re going to slide” and she slid her hands through her knees behind her back and put her chin on the floor. She was like, “just do this”. And I was like, “nooo”. And like, I was surprised that she could do it no less that she was encouraging all of us to do it. No regressions, no alternatives, just like “and go ahead and slide your hands across the floor”. And I can’t even reach the floor. So it was really, I didn’t go back to a class there. So I always keep that in mind. Because, um, because that’s the feedback I get from so many people, they say they’ve had that exact same experience. Or even worse, the instructor says like, “Hey, you Torin, your, you know, you can go harder yet. Like you’re not you’re not doing enough”. And like how embarrassing how like, awful to experience that in a group setting. So I mean, like we would never, 

Lily: yeah, no, I totally agree. And I think those situations when the instructor is like, pushing you is fine when you know everyone in the group, and you’re comfortable. But when it comes to the point that you’re just with a bunch of strangers,  

Torin: um, hmm 

Lily: and you’re like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t I can’t touch the floor”.  

Torin: Yeah.   

Lily: “You want me to put my chin to it? “Like No. 

Torin: Yeah, absolutely.  

Joe: Yeah. Well, I think that like in any sort of coaching is good, especially in the fitness world. But you think about you have to build our coaching relationship to know that person and what they can and can’t do? And if you’re going into your first class with somebody, you don’t know them? They don’t know you? And you don’t know what they’re capable of? Or what their what their experiences?   

Lily: Exactly, yeah, I think that it’s also important experiences, I think that’s really important that you brought that up. Um, I think that’s another way to be inclusive, um, in general, and, um, you know, through the Rec is to understand other people’s experiences, or to even understand, you don’t know those experiences. So you don’t know if them, they hurt their back and they like are really scared to bend it in a certain way. Like you don’t know that. And so I think it’s important to understand that and yeah, not push where you don’t know if you can push or not. 

Torin: um hmm 

Joe: Yeah, I think this is why communication is always so important to of, being able to, you know, ask those questions of a class, whether it’s at the beginning or during registration, like what know, what do you need to be able to participate in this class fully? Is that adapting the routine a little bit? Is it you know providing an auxiliary aid? Is it you know, being responsive and flexible in the moment? Um, I think when you ask those questions and communicate, you get a better experience for everyone who’s taking the class? 

Torin: Yeah, it’s so true. And I think that some of the, ah ah, qualities about the Rec that make it so inclusive and accessible is that there’s stuff you can advocate for yourself about, you can go to the counter and say, “Hey, can I check out a band so that I can do this exercise in a way that matches my body?”. But you can also do stuff without needing to ask for anything. We have a lot of equipment that is specifically tailored to wheelchair users, where you can unhook a pin and slide the seat away, and then roll up and do the same exercise without having to get out of your chair. So there’s a lot of different ways for people to engage with our equipment, with our programs where they can choose how much or if at all, they need to disclose any limitations or disabilities. And if they want to even take it that way.  

Lily: I think a lot of people don’t know that. Um, so I think that’s something that one of the points I have up here is, you know, what’s, what are some barriers to accessing the Rec. And I think just people not knowing that they can access the Rec, again, before we all sat down, I told everyone here that, you know, I’m not very well educated or well versed in what we’re going to talk about today. Um, I tried to do a little research, but, you know, not everything is on our website. So I think it’s really, really important to get that word out. And to make it very known that you can come to that wreck not being a fully able-bodied person. 

Torin: Yeah,  

Lily: because we have those opportunities for you. And we want to give you those opportunities. 

Torin: Um hmm, And at the same time, like I totally understand why someone would be hesitant to show up if it’s not immediately evident to them. What, ah, accommodations or what kind of stuff there is, like, Joe, is that is that like a common thing for people in the disabled community? 

Joe: Yeah, I think there’s this idea of you know, in the disabled community, like “I shouldn’t have to make arrangements to request something special to show up to a place” and you know, in that setting, because then people are so used to that elsewhere, like in the community of you have to call ahead and ask for accommodations. You have to do this. And I think sometimes that can be discouraging. It’s like why everyone who’s non-disabled can just go to this place and have the same level of access, why can’t I and that’s something I really appreciate about the Rec is that they’ve been so intentional, trying to create that space that is just you can just show up and have access. Um, I mean, think about things like you’re talking about like you have adaptive equipment you have, you know, training built into with your with your instructors to they know how to be adaptive and flexible. There’s even things I think about,, um,  like the what’s called the gymtim… the gymtimadation program.  

Torin: {laughter} 

Joe: I think that’s so helpful for you know, anyone who’s gonna be a little intimidated or anxious about going to the gym. But thinking about it for somebody who maybe has a mental health condition, where anxiety is already really high and going to a new environment that you don’t know, and you don’t know if you’re going to fit in, being able to use a program like that can be so valuable. And so I really appreciate all the work that Rec has done to be an inclusive space. And I’m really excited to see ways we can collaborate as offices… as departments on campus to support each other. So how can my office, let our students so hey, you can go to the wreck, it is meant it is working it is and is working to continue to be an inclusive and accessible environment. And if you have feedback, they’re very open to hearing that.  

Lily: Yeah, we want to hear everyone’s feedback, because we want to make you feel comfortable here. And like you belong here, because you do. It’s just as it is. Okay. Like, sorry, I haveto find my words, but the world, it really revolves around able-bodied people. And I think that’s the issue. And that’s where you know, the gymtimadation of the, you know, ah, someone with a disability coming in, I think that’s the issue is that yes, it is like revolved around people with abled-bodies, but we want to make it revolved around everyone. And so that’s why feedback is so important. 

Torin: Yeah, like Joe was saying, you know, if you want to walk into a place and know that you without lifting a finger already can participate. Like, a lot of that comes from the feedback that we get from people, you know, we can never be defensive or upset when someone says like, “Oh, hey, here’s a way you could improve”, because, you know, how would we know if if people didn’t tell us, you know, and, um, there’s plenty of research that we’ve done. And there’s plenty of assessing that we’ve done to get that information. That’s how we’ve come to a lot of the changes that we have here. But if someone doesn’t feel like they can access our pool, that’s what led to us. And I’m sure we’ve had this for much longer than I’ve been here. But are ADA accessible pool lift. So all of that has come from feedback from experience, and from us looking for ways that we can make it as effortless as possible for people to drop in. 

Lily: Yeah, exactly. Um, like, yeah, like Torin just said, we want to make it a place that is easy for you to come to. And like I, we want you to feel normal here because you are just because you are able-bodied doesn’t mean you’re not normal, and that you’re not invited to this place. Because we’re totally, we want you here. 

Torin: um, hmm 

Joe: I mean I can I can’t speak for my entire office, but I can speak for myself that I really appreciate that commitment, um, from the Rec. I think that’s so important. Something we need to see more of, um, just in the world in general. 

Lily: Yeah, just being open to everyone and everything I think is important. Oh, also on the subject of adaptability in the Rec. The climbing wall has an adaptable harness, um, which is nice. And then we also offer an aquatic wheelchair, um to help. 

Torin: I didn’t even know about that.  

Joe: Oh, that’s really cool.   

Lily: it’s on our website. I found it out a couple days ago.   

Torin: {chuckel} 

Lily: Pretty exciting. But yeah, it helps with entering and exiting from the pool, which is super nice, because I knew about the lift.   

Torin: Uh hugh,  

Lily: But I was kind of like “Oh, do they like do we just assume that like their wheelchairs? waterproof, or…  

Torin: That’s right,because we have the zero entry ramp. So from the pool deck, you can if you’re in an aquatic wheelchair, you can roll in… 

Lily: Yeah,  

Torin: and and get in the pool that way if you prefer. Yeah, cool. 

Joe: That’s really cool.  

Lily: So that’s something that’s really nice to know. And then, um, we also have cardio machines with buttons and Braille. So, um, for someone who, um ah, can’t see is fully blind, etc. We do have those options for you also to work out which is nice. And then a lot of our so our SciFit arm… 

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: I don’t know how to pronounce it. 

Torin: It’s an ergometer. So it’s like a bike, um, but instead of pedaling with your feet, you can wheel up to it and pedal with your arms.  

Lily: Oh that’s cool.  

Torin: So the Yeah, the setup of it has the same functionality of a bike. So if you were someone who wanted to get, I would say it’s a pretty good cardio workout.  

Lily: Yeah,  

Torin: to work your arms, your shoulders, like your whole upper body. It’s it’s pretty fun. 

Lily: Yeah, okay, cool. Yeah, I’ve never heard of that. But we have one of those which is meant for adaptive recreation and then all our free motion equipment, um, is meant for adaptive recreation Torin, do you know anything about that? 

Torin: So I think that’s referring to like the, ah, weight pin equipment. 

Lily: okay,   

Torin: so this stuff where you slide the pin into like 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and then you can do your lift your chest, press your, ah, pull downs. So having those be, ah, retrofitted with Braille on each of the weight plate. So as you move the selectorized pin to select your weight, you know how much you’re lifting so you don’t over exert.  

Lily: Yeah {laughter} 

Torin: and. Ah, a lot of the equipment has instructions on it, which again, is really helpful for beginners to say this is the muscle that you’re targeting, this is the exact motion that you’ll do to, ah, lift safely and properly. So again, it’s really tailored to beginners and as much as, ah, we can with people with disabilities. 

Joe: Yeah, I mean, I think just even some of the services the rec provides of like, um, ma…, in the pre pandemic, when there was massage therapy offered, because that can be really beneficial for people who maybe have chronic pain, um, or like, stiff, um, muscle stiffness from different conditions that can be really supportive for them. Um, and that’s a, you know, a service that’s offered at a very affordable rate as compared to in the community. I think, um, like we said, just like you know, working out, is really good for mental health in general. So that can be really supportive for students with different mental health conditions. Um, I’m trying to think of what else I think the adaptive personal… having a personal trainers who are trained to be able to do you know, adaptive personal training is really, um, essential. And also being able just to like knowing that there was, you know, if a student wants to participate in intramural sports or group classes, there can always be this conversation. It’s like, what do you need to participate in this? And we will, you know, the Rec will work to provide it. 

Lily: Yeah, I think that’s important, um, to acknowledge is that, at the Rec we are always willing to accommodate, all you have to do is either ask someone or say, “this is what I need, can we get something figured out for it?” 

Torin: um hm 

Lily: And I think that’s, um, really important. I think all of our staff is trained to accommodate. 

Torin: Yeah. And it’s not just for disabled folks. But if you come in here, and you’re like, “Hey, I am non binary. And I feel like I need a space where I can change”, you know, we’ve got all gender changing spaces, we have stuff, and a lot of that, again, has come from people’s recommendations. So I mean, if you come in here, like, Hey, I feel like these dumbbells don’t go heavy enough, or I feel like there’s not enough space in between the racks for me to, you know, safely move while the person next to me is lifting. That’s the kind of stuff that we want to hear about. Because, you know, that’s how we can improve everyone’s experience.  

Lily: Yeah, no, I agree. Um, and then one of our last, you know, points. Question is, why should students utilize the Rec? Um…  

Torin: Wow… 

Lily:  you know, pretty big, broad question. Um, I’ll speak as someone who struggles with mental health, it makes me feel like I’m doing something, even if I am just walking on the treadmill for an hour. So that makes me feel a lot more productive and therefore less anxious. And then the fact that I do feel like I’m doing something, I’m also feeling less depressed, which is really important to me. And, you know, there are days when I like, I can’t get out of bed, like I had a day yesterday where I was like, “okay, hey, I got to come into work late, like I can’t get up. It’s not, it’s not doing it today”. And then I went to the gym, and I just walked on the treadmill, like, you don’t have to do anything intense. But if you’re doing something, you’re gonna feel so much better. And it releases endorphins,  

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: scientifically, you know, if we want to get onto that subject, but it’s… 

Torin: hot science tip. You heard it her first 

Lily: {laughter} But it does. As someone who does struggle with mental health, it does just make me feel like I’m doing something. For myself. It’s like, yeah, it’s like a self care thing, if that makes sense? And so that’s how it helps me and coming from someone who had anxiety, or still does, or, I guess, like, had anxiety about the gym. I think what’s nice is that there’s so many machines that you can spread out from people, and you don’t have to be right next to someone 

Torin: um hmm 

Lily:  while working out and then just comparing yourself and be like, “oh, they’re running and like, I’m not”. 

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: you know, so I think from a mental health standpoint, the Rec is really helpful. So yeah… 

Torin: yeah, that’s a great point. 

Joe: I mean, I agree with everything you just said, I think, um, just the health benefits of, you know, working out and you know, being active, even if it’s just going for a walk, whether it doesn’t even need to be at the Rec, if you’re just going to walk around your block or around the neighborhood, um, that can be really beneficial for overall health and wellness for your mental health. I think knowing that, you know, some students like that community of like, I’m gonna go and work with other people to go into the fitness classes or group trainings and such can be really motivating if you are struggling with motivation. It’s like “hugh I go to this, and there’s gonna be other people doing it, and I can feel more motivated”. 

Torin: um hmm 

Joe: Or I can, you know, go and like, “I’m not really sure what I’m doing but knowing that there’s personal trainers or the classes where people who are trained to know how to lead me through some of this”, and the fact that they’re going to be able to do it in an adaptive, flexible way, I think is so important.  

Torin: It’s so important, like, I mean before I got into this line of work, where I was supervising and leading classes myself, I would always come and work out alone in the in the weight room, and I liked doing it but I wasn’t as motivated and if there was something that I hadn’t done before, I would have absolutely no way of knowing how to do it. So what I find a lot of people share with us, um, whenever we do surveys or just talk to people informally is they learn how to train their biceps, they learn how to do a squat properly, they learn how to do these movements in these exercises that they never, ah, would have learned on their own, because they would have maybe felt silly or embarrassed to like, try something out in front of strangers in the weight room.   

Lily: Exactly 

Torin: But doing it in the, um, space of a group class. They know it’s a judgment free space. And they know that if they need additional tips, they can talk one on one with the instructor, or Joe, like you said, with a personal trainer. And so many people have come in here. And they told me, I never walked past the group fitness studios because I only felt comfortable there. But then after going to classes for a semester, I learned how to do stuff. So then during the break, when there weren’t classes, I could come in and do them by myself… 

Lily: Yeah,  

Torin: in the fitness center, and  just thought that was so cool. 

Lily: Yeah, no, I agree. I think going off of that, it sets the patrons up for success.  

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: We’re not just here for you to work out, we want you to be successful in your workout. And in like, you as a human, we want you to feel like a successful human. And so we’re not just going to kind of, you know, shove you off and go figure out how to do a squat. It’s we want you to, you know, feel comfortable and like be successful in your workouts. 

Torin: Yeah, I think that’s such a good point. Because it’s, it’s the idea that this is a university, it’s a school, and we want people to leave better than they showed up.  

Lily: Exactly. 

Torin: And you know, with with academic classes, it’s about learning, it’s about broadening your horizons, and it’s also about learning your, your, ah, boundaries and how to push them. It’s about learning how to build discipline, blah, blah. And here, you know, people are not just learning how to work out, they’re learning maybe how to, um, face their mental health or they’re learning how to, um, build relationships with others, they’re learning how to break out of their shelf, they’re very introverted. So I mean, there’s so much that people get out of it. Something that I’ve been doing recently is like I found with working through the pandemic, that my back hurts if I like, sit at my computer for too long. So I’ve been training my core and trying to build up the muscles around my spine so that I can have less back pain. And, ah, you know, it’s not because I want to get, you know, “tuned abs”, it’s because I want to like have functionality in my body. 

Lily: Yeah, I feel I slouched very poorly.  

Torin: {chuckel} 

Lily: It’s so bad. And so I agree. I think that’s so important to that’s a good idea, like to train the muscles around your spine, or just like your core. I should probably do that. I like… 

Torin: You have very nice posture right now.  

Lily: I’m like shoving myself against the chair. 

Torin: {laughter} 

Lily: Because Yeah, my back is messed up. Always has been I’ve always had awful shoulders because of volleyball. But {laughter} yeah. And because of that, because of the pain I slouch. And that makes it so much worse. So I think that’s so smart. Yeah, is like, especially through the pandemic, because we’re still gonna have to do a lot of stuff online still. S  

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: so yeah, even just like training yourself while you’re like looking through emails,  

Torin: yeah,  

Lily: better posture, anything? Yeah, 

Torin: {chuckel} 

Joe: I’ve definitely told people it’s like, you know, I mean, if you don’t have a standing desk at home, like, stack some books up on the, on the dresser, and, you know, create your own environment, because we run out, you know, we think we’ve learned the points of like ergonomics and those things with like, your back, your spine or your shoulders and, you know, find a set a setup that works for you, you know, we use a desk you bought isn’t really what works for you, because you weren’t planning to be sitting at 40 hours a week. So like, how can you adjust it? How can you, you know, be responsive in your own environment? 

Lily: Yeah, I agree. Um, my roommate recently just got, um, you know, the yoga balls that you can sit on. 

Torin: um hmm  

Lily: And she loves it so much, because it gives her motion. And, you know, she can like bounce in like exercise while she’s doing her homework, because she’s a Spanish major.  

Torin: um hmm 

LIly: So she has a lot of homework and training to do. {laughter} So she Yeah, she loves the yoga ball. It helps a lot.   

Torin: Yeah.   

Lily: So I think you know, finding ways to adjust even in your home for those situations is smart and a good idea. 

Torin: Yeah, I mean, the science has been out there for decades that like moving your body and increasing blood flow to your brain makes you more likely to retain information, it makes you more likely to perform higher on tests. So I mean, ah, if I know that I have an important meeting and I want to, you know, be able to brainstorm creative ideas or I want to really be able to focus on a task sometimes I’ll do a quick walk or just move my body for like five or 10 minutes just to, ah, help you know improve that. But sometimes I am in that Sunday morning feeling and I’m just like, there’s no nothing’s gonna help. I just I need to take a nap I need to take a break. 

Lily: I toatally get that. I also found something that has helped me, so I like walking on the treadmill. I’m just because it’s a million degrees out all the time here. And during the summer, Um, I like I checked my emails. And I do some I have a second job. So I do some work for them while I’m working out and it’s good and it feels productive and nice.  

Torin: And it distracts you.  

Lily: Yeah, exactly. I don’t feel the pain in my legs. {laughter}  

Yeah, I have several colleagues, they’ll do that they will, you know, work on email, while they’re on the treadmill, or I had, my previous supervisor would be like on her exercise bike while we do our one-on-ones virtually, it’s like, and I’m like, that’s awesome that you can do that.  

Torin: um hmm 

Joe: That’s one of the benefits. This flexible worker environment we’ve been in. It’s like you can multitask and do these things in a way that’s like supportive of you because you can like, get your workout in, but also be focused while also doing work.  

Lily: Yeah, 

Torin: it’s like I tell myself that I’m going to like, do squats while I watch TV. But then once I get on the couch, and it’s so comfy, it never happens. But if I’m working and I’m otherwise being productive, then it’s a lot easier to like walk in place or like do some extra movement. 

Lily: What I do actually with the TV thing, so, um, I bought a weighted hula hoop.  

Torin: ooo  

Lily: It makes my hips like feel like good, I have bad everything about my body is just from volleyball. It’s just everything’s tight and just unwell. And so the hula hoop really helps stretch, like everything out and like you can walk around the house with it. And I only bought like a two pound one because I wanted just to like, cardio  

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: and like move.  

Torin: um hmm  

Lily: And so yeah, I just like turn on my laptop, turn on whatever show I’m watching. And I like hula hoop for 40 minutes.   

Torin: nice 

Lily: You know, like, if I can watch TV, I can do something while watching TV. You know? Yeah, that was kind of my thing. It happened over fall break last year. And I was like, “What am I doing?”. Like, I’m just sitting here all day. Like I could be doing something at least for one episode. You know, like. 

Torin” good for you.  

Lily: But yeah, so I think on that, so we kind of went on a weird tangent.  


Lily: multitasking is also very good. Kind of I say that. And then I’m like, certain times of multitasking can be good. So like exercising and doing work exercising and studying. That is good. That can that can help. 

Torin: Yeah, movement, just I don’t know it is. It’s nice, because, you know, even if I’m sitting comfortably after a while, while my watch will ping me. It’ll tell me to move. But my body also feels like it needs to move. And yeah, so just a couple minutes helps. 

Lily: Yeah, I agree. Like, I mean, just sitting like Joe said, You’re working 40 hours a week at a desk, you didn’t think you’d be working 40 hours at. And so I think Yeah, anything like five minutes walking around the house, taking the dog for a walk something is important to keep your mind going in to make sure you’re taking care of yourself still.   

Joe: um hmm 

Lily: So yeah, does anyone have any final thoughts, any other tangents we want to go on for a second? 

Joe: I think that movement can be really important. So you know, I will talk to students who have, um, ADHD or something like that. And they will say, you know, “if I can just like move around, while I take my exam, I can really focus” and I’m  like, “well, then you can move around while you take your exam”. Like if that if that movement is what helps you focus that movements, what helps you focus and there’s nothing wrong with that. And  

Lily: Yeah 

Joe: so I know students who will like do that, they’ll get the the yoga ball, the sun so they can bounce while they study. Or they’ll have a fidget toy, they can, you know, move in one hand, and that helps you know that that kinetic energy is what’s helping them focus. Yeah, that’s, you know, really important to not say like, well, “you don’t you just can’t do that”. 

Torin: um hmm 

Joe: Do what works for you.  

Torin: Yeah, I think it’s so like oppressive and, ah, I don’t know, it’s it’s like ancient thinking to say like, “Oh, this will help me be more successful”. And then for the, you know, authorities to say like, “Nope, sorry, you can’t”, like why not? You know, who’s it harming by by letting me do the things that will help me to pass this test that will help me to develop the skills that you hopefully is my teacher want me to develop? 

Lily: Exactly. Whoever came up with the idea that everyone is the same born the same? Develop the same. Ridiculous! Because everyone needs to do their own thing to be successful. I don’t I don’t understand whoever came up with that. Boo. 

Joe: Yeah. It’s unfortunately, it’s so ingrained in our society, and we have to keep you know, questioning and we see it and combating it in the ways that we can. 

Torin: um hmm 

Lily: Yeah, I agree. I, I love the point Torin made of “who’s at harming?”, If I’m doing this to better myself? I think that’s a really good question that we should ask, when you know, there are people being like, well, “this is what helps me” and then someone telling them they’re not allowed to do that. I think it’s important to be like, “Hey, who is it harming?”. 

Torin: um hmm  

Lily: Is it just hurting the power structure like, you know, who is actually harming so? So,. 

Torin: yeah. 

Lily:  Yeah. Are we ready to close out?  

Joe: I think so.  

Lily: Okay, well, I would like to thank both of you for being here. I had fun talking. I had a good educational time. Again, I said I wasn’t really well versed in this area. And I just want to thank you guys for helping me become more educated in that area. So I really appreciate that. So thank you.  

Torin: Thanks for having me. And Joe Yeah, I always enjoy our conversations about Disability Justice. I really learned a lot from our talks.  

Joe: Awesome. I appreciate both of you taking the time to talk about this topic today and including it on your podcast because I think this is a topic that doesn’t get talked about enough. S 

We hope you enjoyed that episode of Rec Ramble. If you liked what you heard, be sure to check out the Rec Ramble Podcast on all yoru favorite podcast platforms. 

If you have any feedback or would like to contact us please feel free to reach out to the Student disability Center by phone at 970-491-6385, or by email at you can also visit our website  

Thanks again for listening and we will S D See you next time.  

Podcast Archive

Episode 1 Transcript

[Intro Music] 

Joe: Hello and welcome to Disability Dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center at Colorado State University. My name is Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he, him, and his, and I will be your host for the first season of our podcast. For our inaugural episode of our podcast, we will be discussing What is Disability? Today I am joined by my friend and colleague Brittany Otter so we can discuss this. Thanks for coming on the show today, Brittany.  

Britt: Thanks, Joe, for having me, I am excited to be here.  

Joe: So, Brittany, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Britt: Absolutely! So, my name is Brittany Otter, I also go by Britt and I am the assistant director for access and accommodations in the Student Disability Center and I use she and her pronouns. And, I am excited to be here because I love talking about disability, I’m a nerd about the ADA, laws, everything to do about disability and I am excited.  

Joe: So, you mentioned the ADA. Can you tell our listeners about what the ADA is in case they are not familiar? 

Britt: Absolutely! So, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was adopted in 1990 by President George Bush and was a really landmark federal law that gave really critical civil rights to people with disabilities. And, just to give some context, I’d love to read the introduction for the ADA if that’s ok.  

Joe: I think that’d be great. 

Britt: Awesome. So, the very first thing I want to read to you is Congress’ findings and purpose. It is at the very beginning of the ADA, it is under Section 12101 under a) Findings. The Congress finds that- 

(1) physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination; others who have a record of a disability or are regarded as having a disability also have been subjected to discrimination; 

(2) historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem; 

(3) discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health care services, voting, and access to public services; 

(4) unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination; 

(5) individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities; 

(6) census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally; 

(7) the Nation’s proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals; and 

(8) the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity. 

Those are the reasons why the Americans with disabilities act was created in the first place. And, I also wonder if some of those things are still true today. 

Joe: I think a lot of them are true today. I think that discrimination and ableism exists very pertinently in our society and I think that while we do our best as professionals within the disability services field to combat that, I think we need to see a larger change on a social and societal level before we can see those things eradicated. I really appreciate you sharing that, Brittany. I think that really gives some context to the conversation we’re going to have throughout today’s episode as well as our future episodes this first season of Disability Dialogues. Just really talking about disability, disabled people, discrimination, ableism, disability rights. I think that really set the stage for what our conversations are going to be like. So thanks for sharing that. 

Britt: Absolutely. And, um, what these findings show, and that’s not even the purpose statement, and the purpose statement really goes into counteracting some previous court cases that are unconstitutional and some other things, and that’s later on in the actual document, but it’s funny because those are the findings of Congress.  

So they are saying ‘this is fact’, ‘this is what we know about disability in society’ and then the purpose is really short and really to say we want to provide a “clear, comprehensive national mandate for elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities, clear strong consistent enforceable standards for addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities, to ensure the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established… and to invoke the sweep of Congressional authority including the power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and to regulate commerce in order to address discrimination faced day to day by individuals with disabilities.  

Which is so powerful because really what this is saying is that this is not just a nice thing to do, this is not just some charity or we’re going to say, “oh you know this group of people deserve some part of life they can look forward to” or we are going to give them some meager things. But no. This is actually required by lawthat is required by our Constitution, by the Fourteenth Amendment, this is something that is going to impact every single bit of our economy and society, and it’s really going to improve lives.  

Britt: One of the things, right, that then we think about when we’re talkin about the ADA is like, “Ok so, we talk about individuals with disabilities, but like, ‘Who is an individual with a disability?’” Right? 

Joe: Exactly, and that’s, you know, I think  a really great place to start our conversation of like, let’s define what disability is. 

Britt: So, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, um, a disability is a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. And again, that is something that is defined by law, and is not necessary the definition of disability the majority or even most people would define or agree with for themselves. But that’s something that the law uses to determine whether a person is what we call a “qualified person with a disability”, is the legalese language we use.  

And the term “disability” is someone who either has a mental or physical impairment, as I had said, or has a record of such an impairment, so maybe had a previous impairment or can talk to their previous experience, or also habeen regarded as having an impairment and is being treated different due to being regarded as. And so those are very different ways that people can be a qualified individual with a disability.  

And there’s lots of other information that goes along with that. And I will give an example. For me, personally, I have really mild cerebral palsy, and it is kind of a combination between physical and mental because it is a neurodevelopment condition that I have had since birth because I was born early, and it substantially limits my ability to do things like walk long distances or stand for a long period of time or, some days, depending on the day, even be able to walk upstairs. And so those kinds of things, walking is the major life activity, and um the impairment is cerebral palsy, and the substantial limitation is that it substantially limits my ability to walk in that sometimes I can walk five feet and sometimes I can walk a mile, it really depends on the day.  

In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act came out and it actually broadened what major life activities were included in the ADA, among other things. And the importance of that is that it included things beyond seeing, hearing, walking. It also included things like reproduction and you know, a functioning endocrine system, and learning, attention, concentrating – all of these things are so important to learning and impact our daily lives.  

And this also meant that such expansion, I mean there were so many more, such expansion meant that so many more people are now qualified as a person with a disability, that now so many more people can go to college and get accommodations. So many more people can get employed and received accommodations in the workplace. So many more people can go to a public place and say, “look this isn’t accessible for me because of my mental illness” um, I need this accommodation and they have to give it. So just know, things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, the three most common mental conditions in a university, in society right now, are disabilities, as long as they substantially limit a major life activity and sure enough they can.  

I just wanted to throw that out there because I think a lot of people don’t know that and they go through a lot of channels to try to get support and don’t know we are here for them and there are so many rights they have right here in the ADA. Not only in the ADA, but as a subset, the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution. And as folks who are also, folks who might be undocumented students or immigrants to the United States, you also have rights according to our Constitution. You also have the right to have accommodations per the ADA and you also qualify for services under the Fourteenth Amendment. You are human, you are people, you exist here in our country and we are glad to have you and if you have disabilities or are disabled, we want to provide you equal access too. 

Joe: I think what’s important here to distinguish here too is that disability doesn’t specifically mean a specific diagnosis. It really focuses more on the impairment I think, so for me I have a visual impairment. You know, my diagnosis is Lieber’s congenital amaurosisbut that’s not what I tell people my disability is. I tell people I am blind or visually impaired because my impairment is that I can’t see, and the impairment that comes with that is not being able to see small print or navigate dark places. I like to focus more myself on what’s the impairment, I don’t need to know specific diagnosis, what’s the impairment and what barriers do you encounter.  

Britt: So true, so true. And that gets to another way that folks really identify with disability, instead of using the term “disability” a lot of people identify with the way they are impaired or with the challenge itself or with the barrier itself that they are experiencing 

So for example I um, like you said, visually impaired, or hearing impaired, or a lot of people will identify with the way that their disability will cause a barrier in society, so “I am bipolar” or “I am anxious, I am an anxious person” and sometimes people will lead with that and sometimes folks will have had this conversation about, well we should really focus on the person and kind of this “person-first language”.  

“Person with a disability”, or person who has a disability or medical condition or impairment that is a part of them but really maybe doesn’t define them, and there’s definitely folks who identify that way. And there’s folks who say “no, disability is my central life experience and that is totally how I live my life”.  

Um, all different ways of understanding disability and so when we think of it that way, some folks say, “no you know what, society has chosen how it wants to label me and it has disabled me and that’s how I live my life. And so there’s lots of different ways that disability itself can be defined. 

Joe: Absolutely. I love that you mention personfirst language as one of the ways to look at disability. I think that it is something that is very prominent in society that we should focus on the person and not the disability. And while I recognize that this is how people identify and I don’t want to dismiss that, I  personally from my personal life experiences, I focus on identity-first languagso I say “I am a disabled person” or “I am a blind man” because I think that focuses on the piece of my identity that is so integral to who I am and if were to say person with a disability, that is separating me from my disability and by extension supporting the narrative of shame, that you shouldn’t be disabled that I think so often society tells us. That we live in an ableist society that says disability is something we don’t want to accept, that should be cured or treated. And so, I try to combat that narrative of shame by embracing my disability.  

Britt: Awesome. I am so glad you brought that up. I also wanted to bring up something that the ADA says disability is not. And, this is something that I think is something important that was happening in the time of the 90s, actually early 80s into the 90s – that are connected to disability and health movements in general and at the time the queer rights movement.  

Under section 12211, under definitions, it talks about specifically homosexuality and bisexually as not being considered disabilities. And the reason why that is really important is that up until that time, they were listed in the DSM – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – as psychological conditions, as things that were “wrong” with people, that were psychologically unnecessarily labeled as being deviantfrom the psychological norm, and the ADA actually defined them as not disabilities, that they are not something that are impairments which actually helped the queer rights movement at the time, especially when you think about, a lot of folks who identified as gay or bi and were going through lots of health issues with AIDs, the AIDs epidemic during this time, and there was a lot of shame and stigma around that 

In addition, there’s a lot of gender, what they would call “gender identity disorders” or “sexual behavior disorders” that are not included – transsexualism, gender identity dysphoria – things like that that were not called disabilities, in addition to other things like [chuckle] gambling, kleptomania, psychological substance issues, things like that.  

But here, it is really important to point that out to say “hey look, we are being very specific when we are talking about a disability” as something that is substantially limiting a major life activity. Being gay, being queer, being trans is not substantially limiting a major life activity.  

Joe: I think that’s really important to recognize that, I think that’s a little bit of history that I think is not well known when talking about civil rights history, which in most cases disability rights history is not often included in civil rights curriculum and I think including that piece in queer rights history is important. Brittany, can you talk to us about how we define disability here at CSU? 

Britt: Yes, I love that you say that. So, when we talk to students about disability, you know, a lot of times students will come to us and say, “you know, I think something is going on but I am not really sure” right? “This is something I have struggled with, I’ve struggled with it my whole life, or “I’ve noticed I do differently”.  

And I think this is something that sometimes we frame disability in terms of challenge, of struggle, or I’ve lacked this thing, a deficit model, and sometimes it is just about doing it in a different way that is not construed as the norm in our educational or societal environment, and that’s perfectly fine, right? It’s just that most folks don’t do it that way so maybe we see it as different, and that’s okay.  

And so often times, and it is funny Joe that you say this, because I just had this conversation with a student today, who was like “for some reason I just, I can’t seem to sit down and get my work done and I just, I have to get up after 45 minutes”. And I was like, “well then get up after 45 minutes and do something else cuz your brain is telling you that you need that, and that’s totally fine”.  

And so, really It’s about looking at the student and saying what is your way that you learn, what is the way that you approach life, and what are the barriers that actually the environment is posing to you. So not something like “you are wrong”, “you are disabled”, “you are have these deficits”, but “how is our environment set up so that it is not prepared to effectively function for you?” It was possibly not even designed to be accessible to you because, let’s face it, educational systems and structures, architecturally structures as we mentioned before with the ADA, they were designed by people, I mean campuses, people, and folks who are likely able-bodied, likely white heteronormative folks who really didn’t have any other lens of viewing the world and they built it for people who were like them. And that’s true for a lot of policies and procedures and things that we have today in our institutions. So really, we look at disability and say, “what are the barriers this environment is causing you and how do we reduce those barriers?” because that is on us, not on you as a student, but on us to change that. 

Joe: One thing that I really value about the way CSU looks at disability is that we see it as a facet of disability to show that you know, when we look at diversity, we talk about increasing the number of diverse students or people at our college campus, we don’t just mean students of color or looking at the numbers by sex or gender, we really look at it by including all facets of diversity and by including disability as a facet of diversity is really to showing it is just another unique piece of who someone is, a part of their identity and is one of the reasons why I work at CSU and value this community so much. 

Britt: Absolutely, I am so glad you said that. We definitely view disability as part of diversity as not only an aspect of diversity but as something that is part of someone’s experience in a way that is, that we view through an intersectional lens. So, there’s one view which we can look at disability and say that anyone can be impacted by disability at any one time, whether you are old or young, anywhere in between, regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status – you can have a disability at any time. And often that argument is used to get people to care about disability and to care about access. And sometimes that is effective.  

And often times people will say 1 in 20 people have disabilities, 20 million Americans have disabilities, 15% of our student population at CSU has accommodations through our office – we will use numbers like that to say it could be anyone.  

But really, when get down to it, what we’re actually saying is that disability is an experience of a social identity. A sense of social belonging, and a sense of exclusion, it is a sense of defining who we are as ourselves, it is a sense of pride and a sense of shame, it’s a sense of fighting a system that is what we would call “ableist”, which I know we have a future podcast where we will talk all about ableism and what that is, and this idea of things being set up for folks to succeed if they have certain abilities and certain values. And that’s how we see disability in terms of a social experience. And so when we have other social identities and other experiences, it’s not just that I am adding another Lego block on top of my other Lego blocks of identity; it’s that I am mixing them in and making these really cool tie-dye color Lego blocks of my own unique experience of my life.  

So when I say, I am a disabled woman and I am also white and in my mid-30s, that is a very specific identity group and my experience is, is unique and I can talk about that in my own way. And that is also to say that even if I talk about someone who has the same disabilities I do, I will probably have a different experience than they do because of my other social identities, because of the way I move throughout the world, and because of the way my disability impacts me and my daily life.  

So, it is much more complex than just saying disability is a part of diversity, but also diversity is a part of disability. It is all a part of the human condition, it is all a part of being us, and whether or not we incorporate it in our lives consciously and with pride, it is there. 

Joe: So Britt, you’ve talked a little bit about this, about like trying to get buy-in from others to care about access or to change the way we do things. How do you think we really can move forward as society to change disability to really look at disability to reframe it to a positive viewpoint? 

Britt: Do we have, like, another hour? [laughs] No, um, I’m just kidding. There’s so many things, right? Uh, at one point – and I’ll say that as a student in undergrad, I was part of co-finding a Students for Disability Awareness club at my undergrad institution, and part of that was me finding myself and finding pride in my own identity with folks with disabilities while I was there. And that was so key, was that before anyone else could see me, I had to see me first, and I had to cultivate my sense of identity in myself. So, disability identity theories are out there, there’s lots of awesome ones, and I really appreciate the ADA Generation Theory that’s out there by Forber-Pratt et al, and just thinking about how identity is developed in the sense of disability and how we see ourselves in terms of that word or terms of that community, ways in which we might want to fight against it, or ways in which we might want to be adopted by it and have a sense of coming home and belonging in it.  

But at the same time, I think a lot about how media, you know, portrays disability. The inspiration porn, the, you know, consistent media issues with, you know, when is the last time you saw a person of color with a disability in a movie or show or anything? The, right, there’s consistent challenges with representation by and for people with disabilities and one of the key phrases I will always take with me from the Independent Living Movement will always be “Nothing About Us Without Us”. And that, if we ever think of doing something for the disabled community, it better be by the disabled community because that’s the only right way to do it. And then who in the community? I don’t know everything there is to know about hearing impairments and vision impairments because I don’t have them. So I need to be allies to folks within my community so I am also being the person who is also being ally who is also being an advocate for myself.  

At the same, when we think about what needs to change, I think there’s a lot of desire for this sense of, of kind of magical equity, of like everybody will magically have everything that they need. And I think a lot of it comes from this idea of ableism and white supremacy, of thinking about like, if I will it, it will be so, and it won’t take any work and it will just come from my saying it will be so. But it will actually take work from folks who don’t have disabilities, folks who are not from the privileged places in society, to say “what are ways in which I contribute to the ways in which people are viewed?” “What are ways in which I contribute to ableism in my society?” “How do I further some of these stereotypes or biases that I didn’t even know I had?” “How do I learn more about disability history?” “How do I get more involved and better understand some of my privileges?” And I think that’s part of what’s going to help see disability differently – more out of advocacy and pride and an affirmative place than out of this deficit, abnormal, sad place, pity place, shame place. And it just, it depends how, as a society we can do that.  

Joe: Well said, I completely agree with you on all that. Before we sign off, is there anything else you’d like to add or share, Brittany? 

Britt: Keep listening, keep engaged, keep asking questions. We’re so glad that you’re here. And don’t forget to follow us on all the social medias @csu_sdc. Also, you know, start conversations with your friends, ask them what they know about disability, ask them if they have attended an event about disability, if they know anything about disability, read them the preamble to the ADA, and see what they think. Right? Have them listen to the podcast, invite them! I don’t know, just spread the great word. 

Joe: I completely agree. Spread the word, share our podcast on social media, listen to it several times. You know, if you are hesitant to get involved in this kind of work, I think this is a great way to dip your toe in the water. Throughout this season we will explore topics around disability identity, around ableism, around disability history and disability rights, and just checking in with students and hearing their voices and hearing their stories. We will be back biweekly throughout the semester.  

Brittany, if our listeners want to get ahold of you, how can they contact you? 

Britt: You can contact me by email at Or you can give me a call at 970-491-0844, old school. [Giggle]. So, email or call me, hit me up, I am so excited to be talking to any of y’all about any of this, student or not, you know, if you are a community member, if you interested in the topic, if you are faculty member, whoever you are, contact me, I love talking about this.  

Joe: If you want to reach me, again my name is Joe Tiner and you can email me at If you are interested in contacting the Student Disability Center, our main office number is 970-491-6385 and you can email us at or visit our website 

We really appreciate you listening to us today. We will be back with another episode in two weeks. Until then, keep listening.  

Episode 2 Transcript

(Intro Music) 

Joe: Welcome back to Disability Dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center t Colorado State University. I’m your host Joe Tiner. I use the pronouns hehim, and his and I’m an Accommodation Specialist at the Student Disability Center. Today we’re gonna be talking about the history of disability rights, and how they are part of civil rights to discuss this. We have two guests this week, Brittany Otter and Rose Kreston, thank you both for being on the show today. 

Rose: Thank you for asking. 

Britt: Excited to be back. 

Joe: So Britt, we talked with you last week. So, um, will you just give us a quick introduction of yourself again, for those who may not have not have heard our first episode? 

Britt: Yeah. Hey, everybody, it’s Britt again. I use she and her pronouns. I am the Assistant Director for Access and Accommodations at the Student Disability Center.  

Joe: Rose, would you like to introduce yourself? 

Rose: Sure. I’m Rose Kreston, and use she and her as pronouns. And I am the retired director of the Student Disability Center at Colorado State University. 

Joe: But you’re still a part of the CSU community. Umm. You teach on campus, correct? 

Rose: Yes, I teach one course, right, this semester. The disability experience in society 

Joe: Previous to retiring, Rose, how long were you at CSU and your role as the director? 

Rose: I was the director for 40 years, more than half my life. 

Joe: Wow. And the I think the work you did is still being shown and appreciated on campus. So thank you for all your time and commitment to the office, you know, thank 

Rose: Well, thank you for that recognition. 

Joe: That’s why I thinkum,  you are one of the perfect people to talk about this topic today, um, being someone who not only lived through the disability rights movement. But was, you know , active in supporting it being the first director of the SDC. 

Rose: When you asked me to be part of this podcast, I had to really think, yes, I was around when the disability movement, disability rights movement started. And that was in the late 70s, 1970s, that it all sort of started coming together. And I know that we always talked about the ADA. But the ADdidn’t just happen it. It came from the efforts of people who actually started working for disability rights back in the 1970s. So there’s a lot of history that I could talk about. But one of the things I always want to remember, remind people of is that disability rights started prior to the ADA ever coming around. And it if it hadn’t been for the activists in the 1970s, we wouldn’t have the ADA today. So that’s one of the things I want people to recognize is that it just didn’t happen. It took a lot of work. And actually, the disability rights movement started around the same time the independent living movement started, and thatthey kind of go hand in hand. Because it was a time in the history that people with disabilities, were starting to think about themselves in a different way they were starting to be thinking about themselves is not the tragic stereotype, you know, and feeling sorry for themselves, but they were thinking about themselves in a more prideful way. And in a more identity-oriented way. So with those two things coming together, things started happening in the 19, late 1970s that really put on the map disability rights in terms of nondiscrimination kinds of activity. 

Britt: Yeah, one of the things, um, that wewe’ve talked about Rose, that I really appreciated was, um, as part of the Centers for Independent Living, or the independent living movement in the 60s, the really the foundational events that occurred at the UC Berkeley campus, being so powerful being that it was an institution of higher education, a place of, um, of scientific research, right, medical research, um, which is also where a lot of this kind of medical model of disability comes from, right, but also being that folks like Ed Roberts and a lot of other folks who kind of created this really activist, kind of one of the first activist organizations in the disability rights movement… um, kind of created the sense of like we, we need access now. Right, this emergentum, necessary, urgent voice to the disability rights movement? 


Rose: Well, one of the things that, um, was important to understand is that the people who were working towards, um, disability rights, were taking patterns after the Civil Rights ActSo and what the activists in the civil rights movement, were looking at a part of that was the fact that they were the demonstration for their rights. It was a way to go about getting people know the knowing about what needed to happen. And so they took that the pattern of the behavior and the strategy of how to make themselves known. So really, it started with the set section 504, the rehab app in 1973. That’s the act that had this little tiny paragraph that says anybody receiving federal funds could not discriminate based on disability. And nobody really knew who put it into the law. Because the law was not a civil rights law. It was a funding law, but it was in the rehab acf. And people with disabilities actually found out about it, Judy Huemann in New York and Ed Roberts in California. And, you know, across the country, people knew about it, and they knew that it wasn’t being implemented, because the rules and regulations for telling people how to be in compliance with nondiscrimination weren’t written, or they were written, but they weren’t signed into law. So they, the, the activists, disabled activists across the country, they said, Okay, we’ll go try to make this happen. So they met with Joseph Califano, who was the secretary of H.E.W. at the time, and was sort of the person assigned to write up and implement the prototypes of the regulations for 504 for other departments. But he wasn’t signing them. He was, he thought it was too expensive, people weren’t going to be able to do it. So he postponed doing it and no activists went and talked to him. Nope, he’s not going to do it. So their strategy was to take over federal buildings in April of 1977. They did that. And most of them, um, across the country, they took over federal buildings. A few of them lasted, you know, maybe a weekend, or three days, a week at the most. But the one in California, um, in San Francisco lasted, um, 29 days or 27 days, something like that. And they had to put their life on the line. Some of these activists because they were people with all kinds of disabilities, including people who had very enough disabilities that if they slept, they had to be turned. Because they would get bed sores. If they didn’t. Well, once they were in the building, they could not come out, well, they they came out, they could not go back in. So these activists had to be diehard activists who would sit in that building for almost a month. They were in that building. And they had the the leaders had done some work before that, and actually got a lot of support in the surrounding San Francisco area, from groups like the Black Panthers and other kinds of people who knew what they were doing and why they were doing it, which was the anti-discrimination goal that people wanted. And they managed to stay in that long and Califano gave in and signed them. And from that day on, CSU had to change and other kinds of places that receive federal funds in education, health, and welfare. So things happened and I think what,what you see at CSU today in the Student Disability Center was the result of that law. But once those activists were at that this goal, they actually sat down and started at that time to think about an overriding, um, nondiscrimination law that covered not just federally funded entities. And that’s when the ADA started, it was, it came from that law. And in fact, they used a lot of the language from the, the section 504, to put into the ADA, and to look at that, that connection. But it is, one of the things that I think a lot of people don’t kind of think about is that it’s really different than other discrimination laws. Because if you look at the civil rights law, and nondiscriminationthey’re talking about not using the human characteristic as a factor. But in disability rights, you have to pay attention to the human characteristic of disability in order to provide the accommodation to provide access. So it is nondiscrimination, but there’s a little twist to it, when you compare it to other discrimination laws. And I think that’s one of the, the interesting things about disability rights and what makes it unique. 

Britt: Yeah, and one of the one of the great things that I love is the, the way in which activism, looks and and, and some examples of activism just here in our own state. And one of my favorite examples, um, is the ADAPT organization and how it started here in Denver. I’m on Colfax Avenue right now. And right on Colfax and Broadway was the where the ADAPT organization started protesting inaccessible buses and transportation as its first issue. And, um, ah, in the 1970s, late 1970s, early 1980s. And what I love about that is, it was it was kind of a very much, ah, a way to force the community to look at, ah, transportation and inaccessible transportation, for wheelchair users, for folks with mobility disabilities, and say, No, you will see us, you will look at us. And one of the things that they would be known to chant would be to say, we will ride and they would block buses in the front and the back so they couldn’t move without running people over (laughter). Um. And actually, you know, actually try to get into the bus without a lift, um, and show people how just inhumane it is to to provide these services for only ablebodied folks. ADAPT originally was named for Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit. And then later, they were renamed Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today, because they do a lot of other issues now, outside of transportation Buthere‘s a plaque actually in Denver, on Colfax and Broadway thaactually commemorates the work that they doAnd actually, they are one of the reasons that the Regional Transportation District, RTD exists to this day. So iy’all want to know why we have such a great regional bus programy’all thank ADAPT (laughter), because they were one of the folks that made it happen. 

Rose: I’m glad that you brought that up, because that’sthat’s one of the, the examples of how powerful people with disabilities can be. If they gathered together to address these discrepancies in the law, or it just been basic human rights. No, everyone can get this except us because of that disability. And that’s depriving us of rights, um, that everybody else hasSo I think ADPAT is one of the more radical groups and I really appreciate their work. 

Britt: Yeah. And I also want to tie in because ADPAT’s tactics, and especially during the 70s 80s and 90s, were actually really similar to the ACT UP tactics and organization in the AIDS movement, to bring awareness to AIDS and to bring awareness to that disease killing the gay and queer, and trans community. And just how similar the, the group’s form of activism and visibility trying to get the issues visibility to general population and say, Look, these are basic human needs.” Um. And the number one issue for, the number one issue for the for the, ah, at the time for folks in the queer community for, for combating AIDS was just access to a medical care and access to drugs that would actually support good quality care and good quality hospital care. Um. And so, you know, ACT UP would providewould do things like, um, you know, spread fake blood over, you know audience members in a big stadium or would stop traffic, um to um, you know, in a very similar way that the ADAPT would. Um. I also reflect back on that and think about currently how the Black Lives Matter movement operates, and how visible the organization is in its commitment to again nonviolent nonviolent protests, that is very visible and vocal for issues that affect our communities. 



Rose: One of the things I, I, I often think about, though, is, even though the disability community has used those tactics, they get very, very little press. I think that makes it then difficult for a lot of people to even know that these things are going on. And that’s one of the things that I see that the disability community is still sort of marginalized by the press. Because oftentimes, the stories that you hear in the press, oh, isn’t this amazing, this person who’s blind is taking ballroom dancing” or something like that. But we don’t oftentimes hear about the fact that people with disabilities out there advocating for their rights to what everybody else has, and it doesn’t get a lot of press. So I think that’sthat’sthat’s the unfortunate part of making people more aware. It’s really hardIt’s really hard. Because we have such an idea about disability as it being the worst thing that could ever happen to anybody. And it’s like, no, it just is, and they don’t really see it that way. So I think we’re still operating mostly on the medical model, perspective of disability of, as it’s something that needs to be cured or minimized, or overcome. And it’s like, no one overcomes a disability, they just learned how to live with it. And yet, we have those messages that are out there that it’s extraordinary for somebody with a disability to be doing anything. You know, I, oftentimes, I would go into a class and talk about the fact that somebody would see me and they would be so amazed. And I would say, Okay, I have a job, I have a car, I travel, I… you know, I have a house. What do you what, what do you see that’s so amazing about that, and then why. And it’s usually because they didn’t think somebody with a disability could do any of that. And I think that’s, that’s the difficulty that I think we have with anything around civil rights is that we haven’t changed the attitude, we haven’t changed the belief system. We haven’t changed how people think about people who are different. We still see it in that, that, us versus them. And, and I think that makes it really difficult to make a lot of change. The laws that we have a great for providing access. Um. But one of the things that I often times have thought about is that even when we think about inclusion, we’re also at the same time promoting assimilation, because it really looks at people with disabilities of having to be as non disabled as possible. And that makes it really hard, then to be yourself with a limitation, you have not have the limitation in some way. So it’s much more complex. And as I’ve, I’ve been out of the job for a while, it gets more complex, in my mind to think about it. But I really am hopeful for the, the future, that if we can address some of the systemic problems that we have with racism, in general, we can then start addressing some of the systemic issues that we have around ableism, so, because we have to first recognize that racism exists, and then figure out how to get to minimize the impact of that. And then we could take that and apply it to ableism. And that’s what my hope is. 

Joe: really appreciate you sharing that Rose and I think I completely agree with everything you said. I think our society in our history has been so oppressive and marginalizing to people with disabilities. Um, you know, in our history, in our history classes, you know, we don’t often Cover, we disability rights, we cover the civil rights movements. But we don’t talk about disability in that. We don’t highlight disabled people in history the same way we do non-disabled people, our society sets, such low expectations of disabled people, that when a disabled person is living a normal life that is seen as extraordinary, because we have, we are we have socialized to have such a low expectation, or even we have no, no expectation at all. And I agree with you, I think, you know, that’s some the work that we are still, you know, doing today, and still need to continue to do is to combat that systemic, social and societal ableism that exists and reframe it, and, you know, do what we’re doing today and sharing these stories about, um, disability rights, disability history. 

Rose: And disability pride, I think, I think people with disabilities have grown up thinking, they have to be ashamed of it. And then when people acquire a disability, they have all those old tapes out there about what it means to have a disability. And so they, they feel ostracized, they feel marginalized, and then don’t know why. And they think, well, it’s my fault. And it’s really not their fault. It’s the fault of a society who has taken that human characteristic of disability when no matter what it is, and marginalize it and says, You’re you don’t fit in”. And like, how come I don’t? I’m still this person.”. So I think, and, and the other parts about disability right, is that people join it every single day. Because they experience disability, by accident, by illness, by all those other kinds of ways to acquire limitation. And yet, we don’t think about something that happens every single day as normal. And it is. But we don’t think that way. We think of, um, a tragedy, but it‘s part of life, you grow old, you’ll get on the limitation. And yet, we don’t see that as acceptable. 

Britt: I’veI”ve been listening to that. And I’ve been thinking, I’ve been reflecting on that, too, of like, so. So oftentimes, we think about, you know, disability as an eventuality, disability is something that is part of, of, is, will be eventually, if not already part of everyone’s life. And I think about that, too, and in the ways that I have learned to broaden my own definition of disability beyond what medical experts might consider a disability as a diagnosis or condition that is diagnoseable, or treatable by medicine, by the things that we can, you know, pay the pharmaceutical industry, (laughter), to produce for us. But I was reflecting on you know, who gets to be in, in the activism and in the, in what we consider disability civil rights, and what are civil rights, right. And so, earlier, Rose had talked about, you know, the disability movement was modeled after the 60s civil rights movement. And, um, in an edition, like most of the work, that’s that where the disability activism started, where it predominantly in neighborhoods of folks of color, Oakland is predominantly a Black and Brown neighborhood. And so when I think about that, you know, I think of what was it 27 days25 days sit in for the Section 504, right. And the local Black Panther Party coming in and bringing in food and supplies for the people who did need at least one square, one, one meal a day to survive. And then I also think about the FBI stopping them from entering the building. And I think about the, the rights and the, the experiences that they had to, um, experience to be part of the disability rights movement. Right. So the different layers that are involved in the movement itself, right. And, um, you know, this idea of, Okay, so the, the, the Black folks can get to the door, but it’s the white folks who are inside and maybe not all white folks, for sure. Right? Because this is this is, um, you know, folks who are coming in who are organized and, and depends on access, almost literallyUm, But, you know, it became instead of a movement of predominantly folks of color from the community, a movement of people who weren’t stopped by law enforcement, because of racialized assumptions or ideas, people whose bodies weren’t being policed in a different waymaybe not because of their disability, um, maybe it was okay for them to say, Fine, you can stay here and die in my office, right? If that’s what you want to do, but I at least can stop the people at the door who are Black and Brown and of color from coming in. Right. And so I think there’s a lot of ways in which people engage still with a disability rights movement in different ways, based on who they are. And those are some things that our movement still needs to work through. (car in background). Um, and I think about, you know, non, the nonlinear medical focused, white supremacist views of disability, right, that are not medical model based, they’re not, you know, I can diagnose anxiety, because we’ve done studies on anxiety, by and for white people. And so here’s the drug. And so here you go,” right. And, and for people who have money for it, or for this, you know, and for this ulcerative colitis or whatever condition it is, I think of things like racial battle fatigue, I think of generational trauma, and generational slave trauma, genocide trauma, right, I think of the trauma of not only acute incidents, but things that are passed down from generation to generation. And, you know, messages that people learn. Those are barriers, those are things that we create, to then purposefully as a society, make people, ah, disadvantaged and disabled by, and so I think, in many ways, we have to move beyond what this this certain scope of disability entails. Because that is our limitation. And go forward thinking about who are we missing? How are we thinking about disability still, that is not allowing folks to enter into and enjoy the civil rights that we as a disabled community can enjoy? 

Rose: Well, I do know that when, when people start thinking about disability rights, they conceptualize it as white. And, and it really isn’t, but that’s what you see. So the separation of the groups that are marginalized happens all the time. And I think one of the things that I look at is that, that’s why I think racism, ableism, and sex, sexism, and ageism, they’re all related to keeping people separate, and not interlocking or intercepting those identity. And for people of color and have disabilities, they’ve been shafted by the system, a lot more than white people have, they don’t have the same opportunities. Because they, they are being judged not only on their disability, but on their race, and their color, their skin, all those other things, and they don’t have the same advantages. And yet, we don’t talk about that often. But also, when you think about the other groups, how often do they include disability, they don’t often include that. So we, we have work to do to intersect those groups together. And those identities so that we’re working together in Union rather than separately, and in our silos, about certain things. So I like the idea of, of the UN, cuz they talk about human rights. And human rights encompasses everybody. And one thing about the UN they have these conventions ofthere’s a convention for human rights, where people with disabilities, and the United States signed it, but they never ratified it. So we’re with Libya and North Korea in not ratifying that, right, we’re keeping company that way. And it’s like, why is that happening? But it’s because I think the US thinks that they took care of it with the ADA. And the ADA is shove a start. It’s not the end point. They could do so much more around that because the ABA really looks at accommodating an individual. They’re not looking at addressing the systemic ableism that’s out there. 

Britt: YeahyeahI agree there and I think to, you know, seeing folks as human and including their identities and the multitudes and intersectionality that they experience, right, the, the intersectionality of identity plus the historical and the significance of the oppression systemically in culture, that the experience is also important. So yeah, it goes both ways. And I think I totally agree, being able to have something that is responsive and is a both and I think is is, is my hope, or the future of our movement. 

Joe: What do you think is next, when it comes to disability rights and advocating? in the future? What do you want to see happen next? What do you think needs to happen next? 

Rose: Well, this is just some ideas I have, I think one of the things that, that I noticed from the past is that when people with disabilities got together, they moved mountains, we don’t get people together, there is not a reason for them to come together. So we have organization still like for the Blind, and for the Deaf, and, you know, Paralyzed Veterans, they’re all separate, there’s not a unifying reason for us all to get together to say what needs to happen next. Because it needs to come from the from the community, it needs to come from the people with disabilities. But we also need to figure out how to intersect with other movements with other civil rights or human rights, identity, so that we’re coming together as a, as a larger community, that has been marginalized. We’ve all been marginalized based on a human characteristic that makes no sense. We’re all human. And anybody could have any of those characteristics at any time. And yet, we don’t see it that way, we see ourselves in groups, and we keep moving, if we’re gonna keep in our groups, it’s gonna be very hard for to amass what needs to happen for like that tidal wave to happen to everything changed. When I think about it, too, is that in the 60s, we were fighting for civil rights for African Americans. Why are we still doing that now? And we still are, because we have entrenched racism that we don’t want to acknowledge. We have entrenched ableism that we don’t want to acknowledge. We have entrenched ageism. We don’t want to acknowledge we have entrenched sexism that we don’t want to acknowledge. We think, well, we’re fine, we have all these laws that pass. But it’s no people, you know can be biased and still act on that bias and get away with it. I would like to see something that will bring us all together, just as the disabled community like the Section 504 brought together everybody. Um. But we don’t have anything out there.  

Britt: Yeah, I would agree. I think we’ve got, I think people know that the law exists, and it’s a thou shalt do conversation. And what happens when you break a law? Well, there’s a consequence, and sometimes people are willing to live with the consequence. And some people view themselves above the law, I can do whatever I want, the law doesn’t touch me. Some people view themselves bubble like, Oh, I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t do anything to break the law. If I break the law, I’m terrible person. And so the law will prevail. And they will never ever break the law and do what they’re told. And some people feel that they’re at the same level of the law that maybe they in the law can do a tango, and they can bend the law and the law will just kind of sit out of their way. And really, it’s I don’t want disability to be about law.  

Rose: Right. 

Britt: I want it to be about seeing people as people and and, and all of who they are not just about their disability but about their whole person. And so instead of being about what you know, you have to do what you’re required to do as an able-bodied person. How can we focus and shift on, um, you know, focusing on the person with a disability right the disabled person and the the lives and experiences and what what would be accomplishablewhat’s, what’s possible in our community? Like this law was created, so that literal lives could exist. And now they do, for the most part. And so now that kind of bare minimum is happened, what else is possible? That’s I would like the conversation to be about. 

Rose: And I like that, I agree with you on that. And I always look at the law as, it gives sanction to look at things differently. It’s whether somebody does or not, is the question. And how do you get somebody to look at things differently? When we have this history of what disability means? How do we change what disability means? And that’s the harder part. And I think it takes, I mean, we, but we did it we did in the 70s. You know, people came together and said “look at me differently. No, they said, “look at us differently. And that’s the part I think, we need to look at too. We don’t get value the lives of people with disabilities. Not yet. We think we do, but we don’t. When you have somebody in Japan, going into a facility of disabled people and shooting them, because he thought it was the best thing to do. There’s no value there. And so I think we need to really think about how do we change how people value us. And I think the more people that we get out in the community, the more people that we graduate from CSU, and they go out and become somebody, I think it will slowly change. 

Joe: That’s also true. And I appreciate both of you sharing that. Um. If our listeners want to learn more about disability rights, disability history, what would be some good resources or places they could look? I always like to recommend the documentary Crip Camp. It’s streaming primarily on NetflixBut, I believe it also exists on the internet. Um. It’s a really good overview of you know, the, the push to of towards Section 504 and eventually into ADA, I think it does it in a way that’s really easy to engage with. So, that’s something I always recommend to people. What would you both recommend? 

Rose: I have, I’ve read a book called What we Have Done by Pelka, I think, I forgot his first name. And it’s a very good book that talks about the whole reason why Disability Rights got started. It’s a very big book, but it’s a very good book. And it talks about some of the, the strategies that individuals made in order to not only get that Section 504 passed, but also to work with the legislature and coming up with the ADA. Because people with disabilities were part of that process. They were part of the creation of ADA. And I think that’s important to understand that when people with disabilities are part of something. It, It means a lot more, I think it covers a lot more, there’s a different understanding. Because when section 504 regulations were written, they were only thinking of people who were using wheelchairs who are Blind or who were Deaf, they didn’t even think about students with learning disabilities, and what would be needed for them, we really need to get people, um, thinking about, let’s move forward, I would hope that we could get students who are in college, that think about being activists because the students in college were the ones who made it happen back in the 70s. College gives them that sense of can do, and competence that is needed to make things happen. 

BrittI would also just recommend the, um, really great Disability History Museum for the United States. And has a lot of great, influential exhibits that are virtual, and you can access from anywhereas long as you have internet and covers a lot of the Civil Rights history, but also more recent history as well.  

Joe: Awesome, thank you both for sharing. I really appreciate both of you taking the time to come on and talk about this really important subject today. Um. If our listeners want to engage with you or contact you to learn a little bit more on how could they do that? 

Rose: I still have a CSU email and that’s  

Britt: Everyone can email me at, call me 970-491-0844 or you can also tag me on our social media at csu_sdc. 

Joe: Awesome, thank you. Um, if anyone would like to contact me, again my name is Joe Tiner. You can email me at If you want to contact the Student Disability Center, you can reach us by phone at 970-491-6385, by email at, or you can visit our website We really appreciate you taking the time to listen to us today. Um. Keep listening for more podcasts in the future. I hope you have a wonderful day.  


Episode 3: Transcript

{Intro Music} 

Joe: Welcome back to disability dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center at Colorado State University. I’m your host Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he, him and his and I’m an accommodation specialist at the Student Disability center. In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking all about dogs and other animals, we’re going to be discussing service animals, emotional support animals and therapy animals. To talk about this topic with us is one of my colleagues an expert in all things, um, disability and animal related, my colleague and friend, Kathleen Ivy. Thanks for coming on the show today, Kathleen. 

Kathleen: Thanks for having me, Joe. 

Joe: Yeah, Kathleen, can you give us a quick introduction of who you are? 

Kathleen: I’m one of the accommodation specialists in the Student Disability Center, my pronouns are she her hers. And I’ve worked in the center since 1994In my current position, I find the position very fulfilling, it’s different every day. And there’s a lot we have to keep up with, regarding, um, case notes of things that happened in court, and changes in the law, and then, most importantly, the nuanced needs of our students with disabilities. 

Joe: So over the past few years in the office, as we’ve seen a growing demand, need, and use of different kinds of support animals on campus, you’ve really been the one to kind of spearhead some of that work in the office, and have done a lot of research around animals in general and how they can be beneficial for people with disabilities. So I think you’d be, you’re just such a good person to talk about this topic with us. And so I think a great place to start, if you kind of just giving some, um, basic definitions of, there’s three primary types of different kinds of support animals. Um, service animals, emotional support animals and therapy animals, could you give us just some brief information about the three different kinds of animals and some of the differences between them? 

Kathleen: Absolutely, absolutely. Now, I wouldn’t want anybody to think that this podcast is gonna to cover all of the things related to this topic, in depth, because it’s not, it’s pretty nuanced and detailed. And, um, we’re going to discuss this and there’ll be some good information, but it’s not going to cover absolutely everything.… So, there’s some really good guidance through HUD on what you can look for. As far as service and support animals, the, ah, therapy animals aren’t addressed through the lawSo the best source that I personally know about is our, um, organization on campus that’s called HABIC. The human animal bond in Colorado, H.A.B.I.C. is what they go by. And they have really good information on therapy animals. So therapy animal can be a dog, a horse, or a cat. HABIC on campus focuses on dogs, and they train the handler and the dog for this work. It’s very specific work, and really useful in helping support people, both in times of crisis and just for stress relief. So that’s, so, I’m kind of starting backwards. So a therapy animal is is trained to help people that are upset. So animals do not naturally enjoy being around people who are upset, people who are crying, or who are just obviously putting off a lot of emotion, you can do that silently. Animals tend to avoid that. So in the training, they are trained to do specific things that are really helpful, even if it’s justeven if it’s just coming and being by a person when they’re crying, which is not a natural act for most animals, but they can be trained that that’s safe and that’s that’s a good behavior and then they they do it so beautifully. Some animals are more inclined to do this and others. Not. {sign} All dogs do not have the personality to do this. But when they do, oh, it’s magic. It is, it is lovely to when an animal is like that. Um, I’m really fortunate in that my service dog is like that. And is very comforting. Um, not just to me, definitely to me, but not just to me when someone needs some, um, just some loving support. He enjoys hugs most dogs don’t. Most dogs do not enjoy hugs. They will tolerate them from their people, but that’s not the same as enjoying them. Um, some dogs like mine, will actually lean into a hug {laughter} and put their, you know, put their chin over your shoulder or something and hug you back, which is, which is really comforting when that happens. So, um, so they vet their animals, the dogs as to whether they have the personality for therapy work, and then train the people as to, um, to responding and, and, um, and how to work with their dogs so that the therapy work is safe for everyone involved. Because often therapy dogs are taken into situations where people are vulnerable. Um, children’s hospitals are a good example. But schools as well, or people that are really devastated. They use therapy dogs, they use service dogs and therapy dogs, during nine eleven, for example. Um, and the, it’s just so valuable. Um, service dogs, on the other hand, therapy dogs work with lots of people, they have a handler, and they work with a lot of individuals, service dogs work with their handler they are for their handlers disability. So they’re for one person. And they’re trained for that one person, they can be trained by the individual, or they can be trained by, um, a professional organization or professional trainer for their work, their work needs to be active, it needs to be active work that is related to the disability that the person has. Some examples of active work, for example, again, my service dog helps me with walking. So he’s been trained to stand right by me, if I, if I even lose my balance a little bit, which is part of the reason I have him, he stops, he just stops and stands there. So I can catch my balance. And other dogs help with social distancing. Um, they will circle their person that they’re trained to do this. So it’s a, it’s an active thing that the dog is trained to do. You can take dogs that have a natural tendency and train them a little easier, but it needs to be trained behavior and it needs to be active. 

Joe: When you say social distancing. This is this is like athis is in the context of a pre pandemic, social distancing, correct? 

Kathleen: Yes, it is. It’s, it’s for people often who have, um, might have psychological disabilities, where they really need people to give them space. And sometimes in our world, people kind of crowd together and are not very good about personal space. And so a dog will actually stand between it’s person and other people, to allow for a little bit, a little breathing room. a service animal is 99.9% times a dog, it is sometimes a miniature horse, there’s a little caveat in there for miniature horses, which is helpful. miniature horses are pretty fabulous as well. And they live a lot longer than dogs and they’re stronger than dogs. They are significantly stronger than dogs. So there’s work that they can, um, do for people with disabilities, that it’s it’s really useful. And, and pulling a person or, um, you know, in a, it’s not really a wheelchair, it’s more like a cart, and and they live for like 30 years. So a dog typically has to retire at eight, eight to ten Depends on their work. But ah, their, their ability to work is much shorter than a horse. 

Joe: Yeah, I appreciate you sharing that. So yeah, what I’m hearing from you is that service animals are either dogs, or miniature horses that are specifically trained to perform a task for a person with a disability. And I think that work that they do is just so important, and really can have such as positive impact on the person with a disability. 

Kathleen: Great, it allows people to have much more freedom of movement, and much more ability to interact. And it allows people to feel healthier. That’s the therapy part. And then the service part allows them to do things that would otherwise be really difficult, because service animals also perform tests like turning on lights and picking things up and fetching stuff and it’s nice, but it needs to be specifically related to the disability. 

Joe: So, a service animal is like another form of an accommodation granting that person equal access to their environment into their world. 

Kathleen: Sothat’s a really interesting point Joe. Because a service dog is not considered an accommodation, it is considered in the same way that a wheelchair is. So where we’re allowed to ask a couple of questions is, is this dog for a disability? And what specific work has the dog been trained to do? We can ask those two questions. We can’t ask about the disability. Um, we can’t, you know, we can’t ask for a performance of the work. You know, we don’t get to ask for a demonstration. But we can ask those two questions. Unless the disability is obvious. If the disability is obvious, if the person is, obviously has a physical impairment, where they’re using the dog, you’re supposed to leave them alone, you’re not supposed to be asking them the questions, you’re supposed to let them go about their business. Um, that’s one of the things about having a service dog, sometimes it’s hard to go about your business because people stop you. Andand they’re, they’re well meaning and they want to know more about your dog, and they compliment your dog and they, you know, they often want to touch it, which is really not okay, with a service animal, you’re not supposed to distract the animal. And then, you know, some people are not very nice. And they, they make noises to try and distract the dog because they want to see what the dog will do or, you know, a variety of things, but mostly, mostly it’s people asking questions, because they’re well meaning and they’re interested. But most people want to go about their day. That’s an interesting part about having a service animal. And Iit’s one of the things that I warn students about when they bring one on campus is that they need to know that people are going to ask them questions because they’re interested. And if you’re really shy, or that’s part of your disability, that can be really hard, it can be a real challenge. So let me explain support animals for, for a little bit. Supporting animals can be a dog, but they can also be any animal that you can commonly get. That’s common in a household that you can commonly get at a pet store. So that can be a turtle, that can be a bird, that can be a cat or a dog. Most of them are cats or dogs, they can be a garble or, you know, something like that. For emotional support animals, taking care of the animal is actually good therapy for a person with certain kind of, of disability. So that’s the therapy they’re providing is that the person interacts with the animal and takes care of the animal feeds the animal plays with the animal, that is the therapy right there, them being an, you know, the that the animal being an animal is the therapy, whereas It’s different with a service dog, because they’re trained to do active work. It’s not just that they’re a dog. With an emotional support dog, it’s just that they’re a dog. And that’s what the therapy entails. There’s a little controversy about whether, um, like reptile, um, can be an emotional support animal. And in the guidelines, it specifically addresses that, that if someone has an unusual animal, like a snake, or reptile, if the provider of the documentation will explain the connection and why that animal is important to the person and how it relates to their disability. They don’t have to talk about the disability, but they do have to talk about the relationship, then, then we can allow animals to like like a snake, or, or reptile which we’ve had those on campus as, um, it’s not as unusual as you might think we’ve even had a tarantula on campus. And, and it was explained quite well on the documentation, why it was important to the person.  

Joe: Sowhat I’m hearing the difference between a service animal and emotional support animal is that with a service animal, the animal is performing an active task to benefit the individual with a disability. Whereas with an emotional support animal, the person with a disability performing the active task for the animal is beneficial for the person with a disability. Do you feel like that’s a good, accurate summary? 

Kathleen: Yeah, I like that. That’s a good way to put it. 

Joe: So as you talk about these different kinds of animals, it sounds like it can be really confusing to kind of distinguish between them and how, you know, educational institutions, landlords, federal institutions kind of can separate between them and so do you have any guidance or resources on, for people who may be confused or want to learn more about differences? Where can they look for that? 

Kathleen: The department Justice and the, um, HUD, that’s Housing and Urban Development, which is covered by the Fair Housing Act, have both written information about the use of service dogs, and support animals. And support animals covers a variety of kinds of work that an animal can do. Neither of these laws, addresses, therapy dogs, or therapy animals, because they’re used more than dogs for therapy. However, fortunately, fortunately, just in 2020, and January of 2020, HUD put out a document with really nice clear guidelines of what what, um, landlords need to know, and kind of how to address the what they need to know and documentation. And all the nuances, they really covered a lot of the nuances. The reason they did this, which I was, I was so happy, I celebrated when this document came out is that about 60% of their complaints after, um, 2008, when really there was a lot of activity around assistance animals, support animals, and emotional support animals, which people use those terms interchangeably, but they’re really not. But there was real explosion in 2008, because there was some pretty vague information put out about, about how landlords needed to allow people to have animals, and then had some, lots of confusion. So it took until 2020, for some good guidelines to be given. So it we had 12 years of, of scrambling, and court cases and difficulty and confusion. Now, we still have confusion, but at least we have this document we can go back to. Then there’s a joint document, which is put out by the Department of Justice and HUD addressing really, it’s more legal. The the document I’ve been talking about that was in January 2020 is advice and good advice, and then the document that was put out jointly by Department of Justice and HUD is more legal based. Um, and not quite as user friendly. It’s useful. But it’s not quite as user friendly because it contains a lot of legalese and legally is can be really confusing. 

Joe: Something as you’re talking about all of this talking about like having animals on campus. Can you talk about the differences, um, so when a student has either a service animal or an emotional support animal on campus, the differences on like, what they can do with the animal where they can take them what are the rights that the animal has, and the person has with the animal when they’re on a college campus? 

Kathleen: For emotional support animals, they are primarily for residents. And the law is written primarily for residents. There are occasional exceptions. Um, those exceptions, um, are not something we deal with a great deal. Mostly it’s, its students who are living in university property that, um, that we need to navigate this for, either in the residence hall or apartment life. And they’re allowed to have the animal in their apartment or in the residence hall and to take it like a dog might need to go outside. Or some people use leashes with their cats and take them outside. And they’re allowed to do that. For the most part. They’re not supposed to take them to class. There’s a bunch of reasons for this. Um, part of it is the effective use of service dogs onon campus could be compromised when we, if we had a lot of different animals out and about in classes. Um, but there’s, there’s other reasons that are very specific. {laughter} So I’m not going to go into all of them right now. For a service dog. They can go almost everywhere on campus. Now public health is another thing that impacts this. So if it would be dangerous for public health to have a dog, a service dog with a person, like if they were working as a food server, you know, working behind the line doing prep work, they can’t have their service dog there with them. There, there has to be other things that are worked out so that they get the support they need. They don’t have to leave their service dog at home they can bring a candle and have it away from the food. But they can’t just have it they’re on the prep line when they’re serving food or or or prepping food. There’s also labs on campus because our campus is kind of complex with lots of different kinds of environments. So there’s labs on, on campus where it’s not appropriate to have a dog in the lab because it would compromise the lab, or it would be dangerous for the dog. So working out having a kennel where the dog can stay. So the person can bring it to class, get help and support within the class, to to do what they need to do, and then take the dog when they leave class is something we have worked out. One example is the cadaver labs on campus, we cannot have service dogs in the cadaver labs, but we can have a kennel nearby, so that the student can leave their dog, go do their work in the in the cadaver lab, and then pick up the dog afterwards. 

JoeI appreciate you sharing that, I think that’s really helpful and kind of understand the differences on you know, where, um, when you see animals out and around campus, you know, if you see a dog in the classroom, it’s most likely a service dog. And that’s, you know, when you should, you know, not distract the dog not bothered, or its handler versus if you see a dog in someone’s residence hall room, it could be an emotional support animal, it may not be a working animal. And that’s why I think having those conversations with the handler first before approaching, or interacting with the animal is really important.  

Kathleen: And basirespect of asking a person before you touch their animal is really important when you’re talking about service dogs. That applies, that basic respect of talking to a person before you touch their animal applies to all animals. It’s really, it’s really not safe to go up and just touch a dog. You wouldn’t go up and touch somebody’s child, that that would really be frowned upon. And most people understand that you shouldn’t talk touch their dog either without talking to the human first, and asking if it’s okay, and then accepting it. If they say no, there’s reasons that people say no, I don’t want a petting my dog. They’re not being offensive. Um, there’s their service work where it’s not good to have the dog be distracted. So it’s important that the dog is not touched, um, or distracted in some other way.  

Joe: Yeah, I think this all just ties back to, you know, when we talk about consent of like, you know, you shouldn’t touch a human or their child without their consent. And if they don’t give you consent, you need to respect that. And it’s the same forfor animals too. Ask the, the handler if it’s okay to touch them. And if they say no, you need to respect that, because that’s just them not giving consent to that. And I think that’s really important to recognize. 

Kathleen: Yeah,  

Joe: can you tell us a little bit more about maybe some other things people should and shouldn’t do when they see different kinds of assistance animals? Whether it be on campus or in the community, some good tips of do’s and don’ts. 

Kathleen: One of the things I kind of mentioned before is that people want to go about their day. So asking someone a lot of questions about their dog isn’t always appropriate. So you need to be mindful of that. Although when people ask me questions, I, I try and be really kind about it. And many people with service dogs do but it’ssometimes people ask really intrusive questions you. That’s really, that’s really not good {laugh} to ask intrusive questions aboutabout a person’s disability I’ve hadI have had people ask me really personal questions. And I it’s sometimes it’s hard to navigate.{laughter} Um, so it’s, it’s really recommended that you don’t do that. Also, a service dog is a dog, even though they’re trained, giving them some space, not running right up on them, that dogs gonna react to somebody running out behind it, or driving a skateboard right next to it, that, you know, that’s kind of alarming for a human. And it’s, it’s alarming for a service dog to have somebody zipped by a skateboard right next to them. One of the things that has happened on campus is that service dogs have not frequently but every once in a while been hit by a skateboarder. And you know, the dogs like, “AH!” you know, you hit me, and they might bark. And that’s not inappropriate behavior. There’s still a living being and being hit by a skateboard is an alarming event. So it’s, it’s not bad behavior for the dog to react and possibly bark if something like that happens. So it’s nice if you can give them a little space and be respectful of the fact that the dog is a living being. Now, here’s one of the things that people sometimes forget. If a dog is violent, or a public health problem. Mostly that has to do with violence, barking and biting and so on. It doesn’t matter that is not allowed. If, If a dog is behaving in appropriately, stealing food, going to the bathroom inside, things like that, then that can be addressed. It’s not, you’re not limited to the two questions, you can address the behavior that’s problematic. That’s why I mentioned that, you know, if a dog gets hit by a skateboard, they’re likely to bark. But mostly a dog shouldn’t be barking, especially not to disturb a class, or whining and disturbing the class, people are there to learn. And the dog shouldn’t be an impediment to that. Also, being aggressive growling and snapping at people is not appropriate behavior for an emotional support animal or for a service dog. Most of the time, you won’t see that happen with service dogs. It’s been rare, but it has occasionally happened. And then people have felt like they can’t address it. And that’s not true. You can address poor behavior. Let me see. Other thing? Well, what I really wish was common sense. You don’t offer food to somebody else’s animal, they could be allergic to it, they could be something that the person absolutely doesn’t let her dog have people food that, you know, there’s, there’s a variety of things and offering food to an animal without asking the person first. And asking first doesn’t mean Oh, can I give this to your dog?” while you’re putting this in the dog’s face? You know, you need to, need to have a little space there. Those are some things that have come up that are sometimes surprising. And playing with a dog’s tail has come up, I cannot tell you how many times that has come up on campus, where dogs standing, you know, the person standing in line with your dog, and the person behind them is playing with a dog’s tail. That’s really not. That’s, that’s really rude. {laugh} You know, the tail may be fluffy and wagging back and forth and tempting. But it’s, it’s not the right thing to do. You shouldn’t be playing with the tail of the dog. That sounds silly. It doesn’t it just sounds silly. 

Joe: No, I don’t think it sounds silly. It’s you know, again, it’s such respect for someone for an animal for their, their body and their, their space. And you know, doing things without consent just is not appropriate. So I think it’s absolutely makes sense what you’re saying. I’m wondering if you can talk about some of the misconceptions that are out there about people who use either a service animal or an emotional support animal. 

Kathleen: Ah, and there’s quite a few of them. Another thing that people have said to me, often, not at not all the time, but often is, boy, I wish I could bring my dog with me. Well, they really wouldn’t want to have the disabilities that I have that make me need that dog. And and I have a lot of students who use service animals who use the service dog that have people say that to them. Um, it’s really unkind. It’s a misconception to think that there’s not a process, there is a process that we follow for allowing emotional support animals. Thethe guidelines I mentioned earlier, give really specific details of what what can be asked to allow person to have an emotional support animal. And then there’s just process for, for service dogs as well. 

Joe: I think one of the misconceptions I’m hearing you say is that people with service animals get a free pass, and they can just come to campus and go wherever they want and do whatever they want. And there’s not any restrictions. Um, but I think he just did a really good job at outlining, you know, there are still behavioral standards for service animals and support and emotional support animals on campus, and that we do have a process that we ask students to go through. 

Kathleen: Yeah, and there is a process and the two questions can be asked, but they shouldn’t be asked 100 times while a person is out on campus. Um, especially if you can see that a person has an obvious disability then, then you shouldn’t be asking those two questions of, “Is this for a disability? and what work is it been taught to do?”. And then if you’ve already asked that person, like we had a big discussion in the Lory Student Center withwith the staff, because if you’ve seen the person and ask them the questions about the dog, before, you need to leave them alone after that, need to remember that you’ve asked them this and not ask them every time they come. Unless the dog is misbehaving. You can always address that even if you’ve talked to them before and they answered the questions. If the dogs misbehaving, you can address that behavior. And that’s a that’s a real misconception that that is occasionally caused problems out on campus. 

Joe: Before we wrap up today, Kathleen, is there anything else you want to share add for our listeners? 

Kathleen: Well, just that I really enjoy this work. I really believe in the efficacy of animals and the interaction between humans and animals. I, I think especially, I love all animals, but especially dogs. I think dogs are angels, and that, for the most part anyway. And that we are, it’s just so wonderful that we have them. There’s so many things that they can do that are beneficial. And I, you know, as human beings, I’m not quite sure that we deserve them, but I’m sure glad that we have them because they just add so much to living on this planet. 

Joe: Thank you for sharing that. And thank you for taking the time to join us today to have this conversation. If you’d like to learn more about the different kinds of services and support animals. Our office has a website dedicated to that the link to that is If you have additional questions about this topic or would like to contact the Student Disability center, you can reach us by phone at 970-491-6385 you can email us at You can visit our office website at We really thank you all for joining us today and we’ll be back again in a couple of weeks in another episode. And until then, I hope you all have a great day. 

Episode 4 Transcript

{Intro Music} 

Joe: Hello, and welcome back to Disability Dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center at Colorado State University. I’m your host Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he, him, and his. I’m an accommodation specialist here at the Student Disability Center. Today in celebration of spring break, we’re gonna be talking all about self-care, and what that means for different kinds of people. To help facilitate this conversation. I have my friend and colleague Mel Lafferty here. Welcome to the show, Mel. 

Mel: Hi, Joe. Thanks for having me. 

Joe: Mel, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

Mel: Sure. So, I’m also an accommodation specialist for the Student Disability Center at CSU. My background is in mental health and, ah, clinical psychology. So that’s really where I started getting interested in self-care. And I’m also studying mindfulness as part of a Ph.D. program. And my pronouns are she and her. 

Joe: Awesome. Well, we’re glad to have you here today. And I know this is a topic you’re very interested in, just to start the conversation. Can you tell us a little bit about what self-care is? 

Mel: Yeah, absolutely. So, um, one of my favorite definitions of self-care, is that self-care is about creating and maintaining practices that help you sustain your energy and spirit. And that comes from Artreach Toronto. But what’s important to think about in terms of self-care is it really is what what you need. So it’s about whatever you need to sustain your energy and spirit, um, thinking about your own wellness and health and your own individual needs. And so, self-care is not the same for everybody. So again, it’s really about what is it for you 

Joe: That’s so true. And I think to really talk about some of this in a little bit, we’ll be joined by some other colleagues to talk about how self-care looks at different kinds of people. You mentioned, you know, in your intro, that you study a lot about mindfulness. Can you tell us a little bit about how self-care fits in with mindfulness? 

Mel: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so what’s great about mindfulness is that there are so many different ways to practice mindfulness. So a lot of people think about, you know, meditation, um, you know, different ways of, you know, just kind of focusing your attention and, um, thinking about things in a different way. And so with mindfulness, I mean, there’s, there’s so many different ways that you can practice it. And so for self-care, you know, really to do what works for you. So some people like to do yoga. Um, I know some of our guests here, do yoga, and might talk about that later. Um, But yeah, so mindfulness is a great way to just take time for yourself, and, um, really recenter and refocus. Another way that that relates to self-care is that self-care doesn’t have to be this emergency response, you know, when we’re stressed. So something comes up, and we think, Okay, I need to take, you know, a few deep breaths, you know, that’s all great, too. But it’s good to also think about self-careum, and mindfulness and ways to practice that when you’re not stressed. So, for example, if Yoga is how you want to practice mindfulness, um, maybe that’s something you do once a week. Some people even do a little bit every day. So it’s just something that you do to kind of take time and make that space for yourself. 

Joe: So Mel, I know you’ve talked about wanting to have a bigger discussion about decolonizing self-care, can you tell us about what decolonizing self-care means? 

Mel: Yeah, so it’s important to keep in mind that marginalized groups are told not to center their self-care, that’s often a message that is received. And so, when we think about self-care, it’s not just, um, ideas you might see in the media, like your treat yourself and going shopping and things like that. It could be but it could also be a practice that maybe you’re already doing, it could be a cultural practice or tradition. Um, people can work with what you already have, you know, doesn’t have to be expensive or anything like that. Um, I think it’s important for self-care to be accessible to everybody. So self-care can also be community care. Um, so we think about self-care in an individual way, you know, what can I do for myself, it’s, it’s literally in the word, but, um, you can also practice self-care by just being with your community, you know, being with people you want to be with, I think that’s important to make space for also. 

Joe: I think that’s so true. Um, I think that’s a really good tie in to now having you do just a larger discussion. Um, so now Mel and I are joined by some other of our colleagues to have a larger group discussion about this are joined by our colleagues Alicia and Shade’. I am wondering real quick if you two can both introduce yourselves real quick? 

Alisha: Hi, I’m Alisha Zmuda. Um, my pronouns are she, herhers and I work as the Coordinator of Alternative Testing Accommodations at the Student Disability Center,  

Shade’: Hello, everyone, my name is Shade Osifuye, she, her, hers pronouns. And I am the Assistant Director of the Student Disability center. 

Joe: Thank you both for being here today. I will also be engaging in this conversation with more panelists and letting Mel really take this, lead this conversation. So Mel, take it away. 

Mel: Thanks, Joe. So first thing I’m curious about. Um, so I mentioned, you know, we all get different messages about self-care and different ideas of what it is. So when we talk about self-care, you know, what do youwhat do you think of what comes to mind?  

Alisha: Mel, I think that’s such an interesting question. And I really enjoyed how you kind of reframed what self-care is, and how we’re talking about reframing self-care, because I think for a very long time, when I thought of self-care, I thought of the bubble baths, and the facials and the things you do to take care of yourself, per se, and air quotes. But as I never felt like that was something I liked doing, I don’t really enjoy baths, I don’t really go get facials or massages. And I think those are great. But I’ve learned that for me, self-care is as simple as saying no to something that, um, maybe I don’t have the opportunity or the bandwidth to do at any given point. And that’s been something that’s been really hard for me to learn how to do. Um, because I think I’m in a position often of wanting to say yes, and wanting to see folks and wanting to hang out with friends. But that’s really challenging. And sometimes I can’t do that. And so learning how to say no, has been real self-care for me. And then I also think, when we’re talking about community care, how are, how am I supporting folks that I spend my time with, or my community, and just really trying to be more present, and asking how I can support? What does self-care look like for you? Um, is it different than what my self-care looks like? And if so, is there any way that I can support you in that self-care? And if it’s, you know, saying no, like, my self-care is then awesome. We will plan on if either of us say, no, that works, and we’ll play in a different day. Um, but I, I appreciate that question. Because I think it’s taken me a really long time to learn that self-care isn’t always the bubble bath, and the, the nail polish or whatever, you know, whatever it looks like for the media. 

Shade’: Yeah, I also appreciate that this idea of self-care, or this concept of decolonizing self-care. I mean, just to be honest with you, from a cultural perspective, this, this is a terminology that is are familiar, it doesn’t exist culturally, for me. Um, you know, just in the African culture, the African society is a very collective culture. And it’s not a me myself for I individualistic culture. So, self-care, depending on culture, it means very differently, things that are very different than maybe how a Western, ah, society might view self-care. But I know just growing up in the way that I was raised and socialized, you know, we’re carrying our, our brothers and our sisters and our cousins and our aunties. And we’re carrying our ancestors. And also when this this idea of, you know, your education is notyou didn’t get here by yourself, you got here because your ancestors made a way for you to get here. And now you must work and work and work to succeed. So it’s, it’s it’s heavy, though, because it’s a lot of responsibility. And it’s a lot of pressure to perform to perform a certain way. And even in terms of the the context of your culture, and what that means and how much responsibility you have to take that on. And I can I can tell you from from a woman who identifies as Nigerian and African American, it’s been difficult to navigate, how do I practice self-care? Because I’m, I’m thinking about my village, my family, my community. And there is there’s like, the societal structures, that as a black woman, as a woman of color, I’m carrying this and I’m carrying that. And this is what society also places on me to carry that I don’t want to carry. So it’s this constant influx and conflict of what does self-care even look like? How do I maybe develop my own sense of self-care around myself and my community? How would that look for me because I’m so used to carrying everything on my own and being taught to do that in a particular way, not just for me, but for my family, for my community. So my idea of self-care looks very different. And again, I don’t even Really a gravitate towards that terminology at all? Because I, I don’t have it. So when people use it, I’m just like, what self-care? Like, what is this language? 

Mel: Yeah, I think that’s so important to keep in mind. Um, It’s just become this almost buzzword lately. And so I think a lot of people, um, hear about this in the media. But, you know, that doesn’t mean that it has to be one way or another way, or maybe there is a different way that you’re thinking about it. So I think that’s really, really important to think about, 

Joe; I hear this and I think about exactly what all of you are saying that self-care can look very different for different people, depending on the community, they come from the background for coming from the way they were socialized, um, what that self, what self-care looks like for their families in their community, I think that plays a huge role into each of us. Growing up, I was kind of raised with the idea of like, self-care is like the, you know, the bubble baths and going shopping, or, you know, like drinking, doing those kinds of things. And growing when I was, you know, becoming more self-aware of who I was, it’s like, these things don’t really fit me and what I find, you know, healing and things to support myself, um. You know, for me, self-care looks like things like, you know, listening to music and going for a walk, engaging and things like that. And I find community care, very helpful, too. And it can be, you know, depending on what I’m needing, it might be like, I really want to go be around, you know, a certain group of people, I want to engage in this level of community. And then there’s other days where it’s like, my self-care, and my community care, maybe being alone and being in community with myself and giving time to process and reflect and decompress from everything else. And so I think it’s really important to recognize that self-care, and community care can look so different for some people may even not be labeled self-care, in some places, it could just be taking care of yourself, it could be relaxing, it could be something completely different. 

Mel: One question that comes to mind, too, is, how do we take care of each other, I think that’s so important to think about right now. Um, and that relates to self-care, because it’s like, you want to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others, right? So we want to make sure that we’re okay. But a huge way to do that is to make sure that we’re being taken care of, and that we’re taking care of each other. So I want to make sure that’s, you know, on people’s minds too.  

Alisha: Mel, I like your analogy of the airplane, and how, when you’re on an airplanes, you are always told that you need to put your mask on first, before you can support someone next to you or support your child or support, you know, whoever it might be. And I think that’s so important. When we’re talking about how are we taking care of our communities and how are we taking care of ourselves? If you yourself are not whole? How can you feed into someone else, or give them the energy that they need? And areis what you’re giving healthy energy? Is it is what you’re giving healthy support? And. Um, so I think that’s such an interesting point, you bring up with the mask, because I, I see that very much fitting into my life, if I’m not taking care of myself, if I am not doing whatever that looks like and maybe I don’t call it self-care, am I really able to take care of the folks around me, are really able to support in a way that is healthy, and filling or fulfilling in many different ways. 

Shade’: Yeah, I, I totally resonate with that as well. Because I think, I think the pandemic has been very, um, eye opening for me in, in terms of showing me ways that I can find alignment with my mind, my body and my spirit. Because if any of those are out of balance, it totally impacts my interactions. It impacts how I perceive myself, and even how I navigating spaces. So I do believe that there is, ah, an agency to find ways to take care of our mind, body and spirit so that we can be present for others we can be present for our community. And I know for me, I’ve really been practicing, you know, the fact that you know, we’re in a pandemic, our families are away from us. Travel is limited to none. Even practicing, calling people andand not texting.{laughter} Texting is good. I love texting, I can text you all day chapters. But I’ve been trying to take myself out of that and said, let me actually pick up a phone and call someone that I haven’t talked to for a while that I would like to reconnect with. And then most importantly, I just want to let them know I’m thinking about you. And I just wanted to let you know. And that’s been a way that I’ve been trying to connect with community in this pandemic. Um, those folks that are far away and Make sure I tell them that I appreciate them. And so that’s how I have carved an area for myself to show care towards community. And also finding alignment and balance with my mind, body and spirit. So I have the ability to actually show that love, show that care show that kindness. 

Joe: I really appreciate both Shade’, you and Alisha, sharing all of that, one of the things that came to mind in listening to all of that is the idea of, you know, how do we take care of others, you know, in self-care and also in, but we have to do that by taking care of ourselves if we can’t take care of someone else if we don’t, haven’t taken care of ourselves. And what keeps coming to mind is this quote I heard recently was that whole people, heal people and hurt people hurt people. Um, and I think that’s that quote, really speaks to you know, if you weren’t taking care of yourself and being whole, um, and aligned, like you said, Shade’, you can’t take care of people, you’re not going to be healing and healthy for people, you’re just gonna end up hurting them more. Um, because you’re hurt, because you’re not taking care of yourself. And so I think about how do we really approach that? Because I think it’s sometimes it’s really hard to like, Oh, I want to be supportive of other people”. And I want to say, yes, and give you the support you need, because I want to be that person at the same time of like, what, what burden is I putting on me? What, how, where is that going to be on me? And when can I say no? And how do I relate that to like, I’m saying, No, I can’t support you right now. Because I can’t because I won’t be able to support you in the long run. And not just right now. 

Mel: Those boundaries are so important. And I was so glad Alisha brought that up earlier, we have a colleague who said this is the year of no, which I think is just great, because there’s just so much happening. And we’re also tired and exhausted. And it’s okay to set those boundaries and even explain why like you’re saying, Joe to be like, you know, I want to but you know, here’s where I’m at. And then when you’re doing that, you’re really just making space. So when I think about self-care, sometimes it’s adding things into my life, that I’m not doing or making more space for the things I am doing that I really enjoy. But you have to make that space that doesn’t just come from nowhere. So I think boundaries can be a huge part of that. 

Joe: I agree. And I think like, you know, as we talked about decolonizing self-care and like how to support self-care of like creating a new culture, we respect boundaries and know some ways just saying no, and are not wanting to do something, it’s not because they don’t want to it’s maybe a lot of times it could just be they’re doing what they need to do to take care of themselves. So they can be a better friend, colleague, collaborator in the long run and think of being thinking about things in the big picture, not just in that moment. I think that can be really hard sometimes. But I think if we can shift our mindset realizing, when someone says no, there’s a valid reason for it. And just accepting that, 

Alisha: Joe, I really like what you just brought up there. And I think a lot of things that we do currently are taught or learned experiences. And I I keep coming back to what Mel said about boundaries and being able to say no, and I, I am reminiscing on you know, movies that are recently come out which are like “yes day” or yes man where they say yes, they have to say yes to everything throughout the movie, but you never see a movie that’s like, nope, this is my no day or this is my no time or, you know, whatever that looks like. And so I think that’s so interesting, because I feel like it’s taught that we have to say yes to all the things we have to we have to do this, we have to be the one who will step up, do the meeting, hang out with the friends. And if you say no, you are going to be shamed, or you’re not going to be seen as professional enough, or you’re not going to be seen as a good friend. And I really like how you talked about shifting boundaries and relearning some of that because I think that plays such a big part in self-care. And can mean specifically community self-care is we’re having to re learn what that means and what, what those boundaries look like for individuals and different people. And we can’t always rely on what we’ve been taught to move us forward with, with this area of learning. 

Shade’: Yeah, I appreciate both perspectives. Um, um, it’s so funny because I that, you know, culturally speaking, we don’t say no to our elders. And, um, we do as we were taught to do I remember, I have just a story to share. Um, you know, my, my Nigerian side, they’re either doctors or lawyers. So I grew up with that mentality. You’re either going to law school or you’re going to medical school. So I went to college, I was in pre-med for two years and said, Nope, can’t do it anymore. I’m done. And so I had to have that really hard conversation with my father. When I went back home to Nigeria. My father is now telling everybody I’m amedical doctor, a practicing physician, when I’ve already told him, I am no longer in premed I wasn’t even graduating from from that, you know, from premed on to medical school. So I had to have a really difficult conversation with my father as well as my Auntie’s and the elders and explain to them that this is not my path. I understand that there’s doctors and lawyers in this family, but I’m doing what I’m doing. And I’m saying no to medical school. {laughter} And, it helped me, It helped me go on the path in the direction that was designed in purpose for me, and not abiding by these cultural norms that we are supposed to do, or we’re supposed to follow, because our people said that we should go this way. And so now I live my life, the way I want to live, people will be like, you want to do this want to do that? I say, “hmm, let’s see, Saturday, I’m already going to be meeting up with people. So Sunday no. Um, if you want to do something with me catch me on certain days, because you won’t find me out and about on this day. So I have graduated to saying nomore and more. And that’s, that’s how I’m treating my self-care these days, I am learning to say, I’ve designed my own path and my own perspective, I know what I have the energy for, and I know what I don’t have the energy for. And I don’t have any problem telling people will have to reschedule will have to look for another opportunity, because I need to retreat and recharge for the week. 

Mel: Thank you so much for sharing. And I’m curious, ah, earlier, we were talking about how mindfulness relates to self-care or can be a part of self-care. Shade’ do you do anything that you would consider like a mindfulness practice?   

Shade’: Thank you for asking that, Mel. Um, {laughter}, I have like, I need to do a little bit better about this. But I am all about like positive affirmations. So, I am all about just like looking at quotes, or looking at things that will just feed my energy and feed my spirit from that day. So I can begin to like, remind myself of my worth and my value, especially on days where I don’t feel worthy. And I don’t feel like I value myself or that I have matter to myself. So, some positive affirmations are typically how I get my day started at 4 a.m. in the morning, before I go to the gym. Once I hit the gym, I am in the zone focused ready to go, I got the positive affirmation, the pre workout powder, all the supplements, food, I’m charged and, and that’s another thing that I wanted to say, for me my mental health, has been bodybuilding, and has been going into the gym and detaching myself literally detaching my mind from anything and everything that is going to distract me from my goal. And I’m only concentrating on myself for two and a half hours. And so when I come back to my domain, and I’m ready to get to work, my mind is already full, my spirit is already full, but positivetivity on most days {laughter}, and I’m ready to go. And that’s how I feed my spirit. And I feed my energy, because I’m concentrating on things that I enjoy that are going to bring me happiness. And I have to recharge and energize myself so that my body and my mind and my spirit are finding that balance. And again, if something is off my body, and my mind is going to tell me that I need realignment, and I start to figure out what is that going to look like? And what is that going to feel like for me. And if it means spending the whole weekend inside without human contact, I do do that to recharge and to regain my strength and my energy for the next week. 

Mel: I like the way of thinking of self-care as energy. You know, where do you get your energy and how to recharge and reenergize as we’re thinking about spring break next week. I feel like that’ll be an important part of it. For a lot of us, Joe or Alisha, are there any ways you can think of that you? You know something you’re already doing to recharge? 

Alisha: I think that’s such a good question. And this is something I actually talked to Shade about a lot. Um, I feel like I am a very strong introvert on many days in well actually most of my life to be completely honest. I am an introvert through and through. Um, and so connecting with people even friends family is very depleting for me. Um, energy wise, I have a really hard time being at work all day and then going home and spending time with my partner Connecting with my parents or connecting with friends who I really want to talk to. Um, and so I’ve learned that for me, it’s really important to have strict boundaries around when I go home. These are the people like a specific group of people, I know I can talk to you who I know, my energy will kind of absorb, I guess their energy a little bit. And I know that on warm days, I need to be outside. And then I also know that if I’m feeling depleted, or I need to gain some energy, I, I take time, kind of like Shade’ does, and I lock myself in my room, and I don’t come out. Um, and it’s been a learning experience for me, it’s taken a really long time for me to realize that a lot of my mental health is part of that energy depletion, specifically related to like, my anxiety, or the stress that I’m in, has a lot to do with, when I’m super depleted, I can’t get out of that. So my anxiety will spiral my stress level will seem higher than it probably is. And so it’s been a long learning experience for me to figure out what works, but those are things I know, have been working. And I would always say that summertime is my favorite, because I can be outside, I can go hiking, I can go fishing, I can lay out in the sun, if possible. with sunscreen on I’m a big proponent of sunscreen. But yeah, just really spending some time sitting with myself and realizing when my energy is at its lowest and what I need to do to regain that. 

Joe: I think somewhat similar to Alisha that finding the ways to recharge my energy is really important. I feel like I I’m kind of on that line between introvert and extrovert, where there are some times where being around people is super energizing. And like, yeah, I want to be around people just in the fuel me, this is going to give me the energy I need. And there’s some days where it’s like, “wow, there are too many people here, I am being very drained by this”, and I need to go spend time alone, I need to go be by myself to recharge, which is one of the reasons I think this job works well for me because I get that, that, that energy during like the during the week, I get that, you know, people find that really energizing. And then by the Friday, I’m kind of drained and ready to have like a mellow weekend where I can just, you know be by myself, or you with just people I’m close with. Um, and be reenergized by that. I also find things like going for a walk to be really good for my mental health. And, you know, clearing my mind helping me kind of, um, walking is a form of mindfulness for me, it helps me to kind of get back to the present moment and get out of my head. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying like getting off work and just, you know, laying in my bed and listening to music for a half hour to kind of just kind of shake off my day, get it you know, disengage from work, and reengage with home, especially given that we’re working from home, it’s hard to find that work life separation sometimes. And so doing something like that can really kind of help transition as I have found to be really helpful. 

Mel: I love walking meditation, because you’re outside. And it’s so easy to do, you don’t need anything. And it also is a good reminder to unplug. One thing I do a lot is I’ll walk the dog and listen to a podcast or something like that, which is great. But other times I just need to not be around technology. So that’s something I’ve been trying to do. 

Joe: Mel, you mentioned walking meditation, can you tell us a little bit more about what that is? 

Mel: Yeah, so to practice walking meditation, I would definitely recommend practicing outside if you can, especially as it’s been so nice lately. Um, what you do with walking meditation is you really want to focus on the experience of walking, and really cut out everything else. So when you start walking, um, and you might walk a little bit slower, you know, just kind of really hone in to what that is, um, think about how it feels. So you know, you step on the ground. Can you feel the ground beneath your feet? You know, what does it feel like for your foot to touch the ground? Um, what do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? Um, really just tuning in to any, any sensor any sensation that you’re experiencing? Once you identify what that is, and it could be it could be a number of different things. So if we go with, you know, the feeling of your foot on the ground, stay there if you can, so think about, you know, you take your left foot, you know, what does that feel like than your right foot, you know, so on and so forth. And, um, if other thoughts do come into your mind, what’s important to keep in mind with mindfulness is that it isn’t going to be perfect. It’s not like you’re only going to think about that one thing. Other thoughts are going to come into your mindso when that happens, just give yourself the grace to notice that and then let it go. So to just maybe you’re thinking about something you have to do when You’re done. That’s very common. So if that happens, just, you know, notice that, okay, I’m thinking about this thing. That’s okay. And then gently bring your attention back to walking. 

Joe: I appreciate you sharing that. I think as we wrap up our conversation today, I wonder if we could each share some ideas of other things that could be self-care. We’ve talked about the idea of decolonizing self-care, I think it’d be important to talk about not only some things that we’ve have found helpful, but other you know, other things. We’ve heard people do things that can, you know, anyone can do to take care of themselves. Does anyone have any suggestions of things they’ve they’re aware of, or things that they’ve heard other people use to take in for their forms of self-care? 

Alisha: I think one of the big things for me, again, is saying no, but I also, um, have really taken a look at how I eat and sleep throughout the day. Um, I know that when I am stressed or anxious or not, at my best, I don’t eat the way I should, or I don’t fall asleep and sleep through the whole night the way I should. And so I think even something as simple as making sure you’re eating, whether that’s lunch, dinner for you, or breakfast, lunch, dinner, kind of whatever is your healthiest eating habits, um, is really important. I am not a breakfast person during the week, I don’t start my food day until noon. But I know that I still need three meals. Otherwise, I am not a happy person. Um, and so just making sure that I am really taking care of myself and eating like i’m spose, supposed to is really self-care for me. Um, and that’s something I realized recently is if I’m not putting the energy into making sure I’m eating correctly, or going to sleep at a time, that’s not 3 a.m., I really don’t do well. And then I’m really not great to the people around me. And I’m really not great for my community and it kind of spiral. So I think something as even something as simple as just making sure you’re eating and drinking water and taking care of yourself can be self-care. 

Shade’: Excellent ideas. That was perfect. Actually, Alisha, you stole your mine. {laughter} Um, yes, eating and sleeping are so critical to our self-careUm, so a couple I’d like to add is, um, I’ve found in other folks in my circle have found the use of essential oils to be very therapeutic, and that idea of self-care. And of course, like I love essential oils, I love the aroma, I have like the diffuser. And that is whatever those things do. They call me down and bring me back to, to a space of harmony internally. Also, I, I am a big proponent of sage. I love sage, just spiritually speaking, it definitely has the ability to clear out all of the negative energies and you know, purify, purify your space. So I have a habit of lighting sage in my room and in my apartment, I mean at my, my house to just clear out any negative negativity that or energy that’s in the space that I could have potentially brought in without knowing it. Or maybe someone else came in, and their energy’s not good. Why I do that on a daily. And then also, um, I’ve heard from a few friends hot yoga is like the vibe right now. And they’re waiting for it to reopen back up. I would love to try it because I Yoga is hard. I can’t stand yoga, so maybe I can do hot yoga. {laughter} So I’m willing to give those that have tried too, I think this is a great conversation. I’m all for like just incorporating anything and everything I can, oh!, I was also gonna say I’m, um, I’m just really like, I love traditional Chinese medicine. And I’m trying that’s like my thing that I do on the side,um just more traditional alternative practices of healing. And, um, I do acupuncture, and that’s been my self-care too. And it’s actually been very eye opening in terms of like, how our gut really affects and impacts our body psychologically, emotionally, physically. And if our gut is not intact, or or balanced, it can really, really impact how we function. And so it’s interesting because I went to get acupuncture and they actually said that there was like a congenital gut issue that I had, and they were absolutely right. Just by you know, The placement of the needles and things like that, in that and the energy behind that. And so yeah, I’ve always had gut issues. And I didn’t know what that was about until I went to an acupuncturist. And that was my way of self-care, and finding those ways of healing my gut so that I can be better and do better and continue to love myself. 

Joe: The other things, I think about other forms of self-care would be you know, we talk about taking care of bodies, physically the, you know, working out, going for a walk, going to the gym, eating right, sleeping, right. Also think, you know, making sure to take care of our mental health as well. So whether that be, you know, talking to a therapist, um, journaling, practicing mindfulness, doing all those different things to take care of our mental health, that is also super important. 

Mel: I think the only thing I would add to is that, for me, I feel like lately, it’s been difficult to balance work and school and everything else, and I have a to do list that seems to be only getting bigger. So when we think about self-care, I want to think about it like it’s not something I’m adding to my to do list. You know, one way to do that is really to actually have time and my schedule that isn’t scheduled for anything or you know, where I don’t have to focus on it to do list or anything like that. And then I can just kind of follow my spirit and figure out what I need to do, um, in the moment. And so that’s another way I think, you know, to practice self-care is to just make that time that that isn’t scheduled and isn’t something that we’re adding to the to do list. 

Joe: All so important. I really appreciate you all taking the time to be here today and engage in this really important conversation. Um, if you’d like to contact the Student Disability Center, you can reach us by phone at 970-491-6385 by email at you can also visit our website, I hope you all are enjoying your spring break. Um, we’ll be back in two more weeks with another episode. Until then take care of yourselves. 

Episode 5 Transcript

{Intro Music} 

Joe: Hello, and welcome back to disability dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center at Colorado State University. I’m your host, Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he him in his name an accommodation specialist, in the Student Disability Center. In this week’s episode, we’re going to be discussing all things related to ableism. Throughout our episode, we’re going to be exploring different definitions of ableism. And then later on, we’ll have some guests who will share their experiences experiencing ableism with us, as well as sharing some ideas and suggestions for how to combat ableism.  

I think a great place to start our conversation today is to really break down to define what ableism is. There are a lot of different ways we can define ableism. For today’s, in this episode, and the purposes of this podcast, we’re gonna try to keep it pretty simple and basic.  

Ableism is the discrimination and oppression of people with disabilities. This can include exclusion, mistreatment, discrimination, it can show up in a lot of different ways it can show up on an individual level, a single person being ablest and discriminating or oppressing someone with a disability. It can show up in systemic ways. So, there are processes, systems we have in place as a society, um, that are not designed for people with disabilities, it can show up architecturally. So, looking at our physical environments, and are these spaces physically inclusive to people with disabilities? It can show up culturally and how do different cultures and communities treat disabled people? And so on. It can show up in so many different ways, and it’s really pervasive and ingrained in our society. Some examples of ableism could be anything from a building not having an accessible entrance and someone who uses a wheelchair, captions not being provided on videos for those who are deaf and hard of hearing websites electronic information that is really visual in nature not being made accessible to those who are blind or visually impaired, discrimination in education, employment, housing, or transportation, or any other area when you’re when that discrimination is based solely on someone’s disability; societal or governmental systems that are not inclusive or designed with people disabilities in mind.  

Some other examples of ableism could be things like denying someone an accommodation, denial of the fact that they are disabled or assuming that they are more or less disabled than they say they are. Ableism can also show up in the language we use. So when we use phrases like retard to describe something we don’t understand, it doesn’t make sense to us, when we use terms like crazy or insane when something seems out of the normal. This all can perpetuate able to stereotypes and beliefs that have been ingrained in our society. These are all just a few examples of how ableism exists in our society. Ableism can impact people disabilities in so many different ways and on many different levels depending on the access barriers they encounter in our society. To help share some of their experiences with us, I’ve invited a few CSU students to share their experiences with ableism with us today. Okay, now we’re joined by Bri Rosales. Thanks for coming on the show today, Bri.  

Bri: Thank you for having me.   

Joe: Yeah, Bri, could you give us a quicker introduction of you and who you are?  

Bri: Sure, um. My name is Bri. I am a first year first generation college student here at CSU. I’m studying veterinary medicine. So I’m really excited to be here doing that. It’s been a longtime dream of mine, I relocated from LA to Colorado for it. So that’s me. 

Joe: So Bri, can you tell us a little bit about your experience with experiencing ableism? 

Bri: Yeah, definitely. Um, so I have PCOS and endometriosis and chronic pain. So, you know, my disability isn’t often visible, you know, I can go to school, you know, most days in a lot of pain, I can function pretty wellSo, I think that opens a lot of doors for people to you know, tell me things or ask me things that aren’t super appropriate. So, for as long as I can remember, like, I can go back to even high school like systematic ableism, um, I was really sick before —because it takes I think like an average of like eight years for a woman to get diagnosed with endometriosis. And I was really sick and I was in a lot of pain and there were a lot of days when I could not go to class and because the teachers would see me laughing with my friends when I was at school, even if I wasn’t a lot of pain or if they would see me you know, talking I think there’s that box that a lot of people put disabled people in that they have to be like quiet or they have to be you know, sad or painful all the time and that’s not true. You know, I could be suffering you know, and still be at school and still trying to have you know, a good time with my friends you know, or making the most of it and I’m really struggling inside but what would happen is I would miss a lot of school and I would get called into the office because I know that there was like a system in place where you can only miss so many days. And that’s understandable because I know you have to like reach a certain amount of hours to graduate, I understand that that’s been put in place long before I came there. But I would actually get like written up, like, I would get demerits and I would end up going to like detention and Saturday school because I missed days for being sick. And that really, like impacted me a lot. Because I felt like I was being punished, I felt like I was less than because I had to take time off to be sick. And, um, it was only exacerbated by some of those teachers, and some of the faculty that told me Well, you know, well, maybe you should come to school more, or you don’t seem sickSo I think that you’re okay. And that was really hard for me. So, um, it started on, like, early on. And then as I became like, an adult, and I, you know, grew up with those friends. And we started going out, you know, like, friends knew my history, you know, that I had trusted that I had told what was going on, um, when we would go out or before we would go out, they would say, Are you sure you’re good, because I don’t want to be responsible for you?”. And that hurt, because I’m not less than or less capable, because I’m sick. I’m not incapable of taking care of myself on a night out, or on a trip. So those are just a few that I have. 

Joe: really appreciate you sharing that. And I know those things are hard to hear and hard to experience. I’m sorry that you’ve had to experience those. I’m wondering if you could share with our listeners some ideas, or recommendations for combating ableism. 

Bri: I think the most important thing is just to never assume about somebody else. And like, like the same thing like, oh, where my friends had asked me, you know, Oh, are you sure you’re good? Like, would you ask somebody that wasn’t sick if they were sure they’re okay.? Like, if you don’t want somebody to say it to you, maybe think before you say it to somebody with a disability, because, you know, we feel the same, you know, we, we deal with a lot and we don’t need extra stuff put on us. But at the same time, I’m very open. And I can only speak for myself. But if you have a question, I would much rather you ask me in, like a caring way and not in like an accusing way, like, Hey, I’m concerned about you, because you’re my friend, and I want to make sure that you’re comfortable. And I would be okay with that. Um, so I would say like bottom line, like, if you are in doubt, ask, and most people I think, would be willing to answer questions about what is okay, and what is not okay, or about what is appreciated and what is not appreciated, because there’s definitely a way to go about it. And I do believe that a lot of people do care, and they think that they’re being nice, but it’s just the way that it comes across is really not nice for people with disabilitiesSo I would say, ask, do your research, you know, look inwardly and say, is this something that I would want somebody to ask me? Before you ask somebody else. 

Joe: I really appreciate you sharing that. And completely agree. I think communication and asking and not assuming is super important. From my experience and from experience of other disabled people I know and work with, most people are very open to you know, if you ask them a question about you know, how to support them. They’re really open to that because it shows that you care, you’re wanting to learn you’re wanting to support them, rather than just assuming based on misinformation or stereotypes or assumptions. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on our show today and to share your experience, Bri. 

Bri: Thank you for having me. 

Joe: We’re now joined by another student to share her experiences with ableism. Please welcome our next guest Mary McGee. Thanks for coming on the show today, Mary. 

Mary:  Thank you for having me.  

Joe: Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? 

MarySure. So, my name is Mary McGee, you she/ her/hers pronouns. I am currently a graduate student on campus as well as a graduate assistant. So going to classes full time and then working part time. So it’s been a lot of balance. But I’m graduating in May, and I’m very excited about that. But in my free time, I really love rock climbing, being outside, and like just being in community with friends. In the future I’m hoping to work at Student Disability Center after kind of going through my own journey of being a student with disabilities, as well as just a person with disabilities. And so, I’m really interested in dismantling ableist structures that place a lot of barriers upon students that prevent them from being successful and having an equal opportunity on campus. Um, in terms of disabilities that I have I struggled with mental illness a lot. So, I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and then ADHD more recently. And so, it’s always kind of been a chaotic time for me as I’ve navigated being in school while also trying to manage my health and also work. So, it’s a lot to handle. But that is a little bit about me.  

Joe: really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today. Mary, can you tell us a little bit about your experience with ableism?  

Mary: Yeah SoI think, you know, growing up, I had no idea what ableism was, I knew what disability was, but I don’t think I would have been able to, like define what ableism is, or anything like that. And growing up, I never realized that I had disabilities. And so, I just kind of like, thought that this was like, just like who I was, which is like a good thing, I think, but um I never really viewed them as disabilities until going to college. And then being diagnosed, having just like a really hard time navigating my undergraduate institution with disabilities. And so frequently I was, you know, that person that never went to class, and people made a lot of what I would call, like, I guess ableist assumptions about you that I was like, lazy, or I didn’t care or, you know, all of those different types of like, wrongful attitudes towards disability. And so, I felt really alone throughout that experience. And still didn’t really know how to, like, make meaning of that, or kind of parse through, like having disability be part of my identity.  

And so, I was able to graduate, and then applied to CSU and got in for grad school. And at that point, that transition for me was really hard because I went to school in Illinois. And that was where I had been raised. And then I was moving all the way up to Colorado, kind of all on my own, trying to figure things out, being only there was 22, when I started the program. And so, I had a lot to figure out and a lot of growth that needed to happen in my life. And so, coming in was hard, because kind of like I said, like I hadn’t viewed my experience like as being one of what like a disabled person. And so, during that first semester, I was really struggling and just couldn’t meet the deadlines. And was having just a very hard time with like, the depressive side of bipolar II. And so, I was trying to like navigate finding like mental health care out here and yeah, just like getting support.  

And so, I got connected with case management and they were like, Oh, you should go to Student Disability Center”. And I was like “Wait, what?”So, then I ended up going to the Student Disability Center, getting accommodations and having a really good experience and receiving accommodations. And so this kind of bad situation, I guess, was the beginning of me, really seeing that all of these like different things that I had going on with like being mentally ill were disabilities, and that they were valid. So, at that point, that was helpful. And along the way, like, throughout my experience as a student, there definitely has been a lot of like a lot of structures in places, even just as much as like deadlines, or attendance policies. Those are the two things that have been really hard for me. And then in terms of like my anxiety, I had a really hard time like public speaking. And so that’s like a large part of like my graduate programs experience. And so I had a really hard time trying to like participate while also navigating this being like a disability and struggling with that.  

And so, I definitely had like a very hard time. I think seeing my like, ability to be in the program as valid and that I belong to They’re, and so over time, I was able to kind of work through that a little bit just on my own. And honestly, like moving virtually has also been a huge, I think source of relief for me with not having to like actually, like physically go to places, and just being able to engage just by turning on my computer. And I also really like turning off my camera, which really helps for me, as well with my disabilities. And so, I think in some ways, my experience was more disabling, probably in just the beginning of my program. And then going into the second half, where I’ve been mostly virtual, has been super helpful and eliminating some of that ableism.  

But I think the biggest help overall was actually a course that I took on disability that was taught by Britt, who is the Assistant Director of the SDC, and then Rose Kreston who used to be the Director of SDC. And so that was really helpful for me understanding the different models of disability, and kind of helped me unpack the way that I viewed myself, like negatively is having disabilities, which is kind of how ableism operates from my experience. And so, it’s been helpful just having that knowledge from that coursework, to have an understanding of ableism, and just how it shows up for me. But I know that ableism is something that’s different for everyone. Because we all experienced disability differently. And we all also have intersecting identities that also change some of how we experience the world. 

Joe: I appreciate you sharing that with us, as well as sharing your story and your journey to this point, in your experience with ableism along the way, from your journey and your experience. What are some things that you’ve learned that you think our listeners could take away from this conversation on how to combat ableism when they see it? 

Mary: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that since everyone experiences disability differently, whether that is someone that has a physical disability, an invisible disability, you know, everyone experiences things differently. So, I think the number one thing for me is not making assumptions about what someone might need. As well as thinking about from someone that is like able bodied and able biases, from their perspective of, you know, why am I thinking these kinds of things about people with disabilities? Or why am I making these assumptions about them?” I think that’s really important, just to kind of like, really think about what we’re thinking about, I guess. And how we’re viewing disability and disabled people. So, I think that’s kind of like the number one thing is having that awareness. And then I think education is also important in learning about even just what ableism is, as well as how to address that through things like universal design, or becoming more flexible or kind of meeting people where they’re at, instead of placing these additional barriers upon them. So I think there are tons of great resources online, whether that’s through like social media accounts, that are really influential when it comes to educating people on disability, or just by going and watching YouTube videos or webinars about disability and especially, I think the different models of disability is also helpful in unpacking some of those beliefs that people have.  

And then other recommendations, I would have, like specific the higher ed would be to, um I think, just have like an openness and willingness to name like ableism within the classroom or, you know, in the residence halls or in student activities, you know, whatever it is, and kind of like calling that out and bringing attention to how that is showing up so that people can address it. And that definitely shouldn’t be something that you know, only disabled people bring up, it should be something I would hope in the future for more people that are able bodied and able minded to start like stepping up and doing those things. And yeah, just like I think having flexibility, understanding and really just trying to think about those unconscious like beliefs that we have about people with disabilities in order to really like, tease that apart and try to create new ideas that are more focused on the liberation of disabled people, as well as all other minoritized identities, I think is important. And so I think, yeah, just those like personal education pieces, being an advocate for people with disabilities, recognizing everyone has a different experience, and then just really trying to show up for the disability community as well. 

Joe: appreciate you sharing all of that. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners? 

Mary: I think one like piece of advice that I would give to students, though is, even if you are in situations where people have like negative beliefs or attitudes towards you because of your disabilities,  to recognize that that’s something that society and other people are putting down you and not something that is actually accurate about who you are and all of the great things that you bring into this world that makes you who you are. And I think knowing that kind of a couple years ago would have helped me deal with some of the feelings that I have without being ashamed when it comes to talking about my disabilities, or just feeling like, you know, maybe I shouldn’t say that. And so, I think having disability like pride, I think is like something that I’m working on. But I would say yeah, just definitely don’t let other people you know, put stuff on you. And try to work through that with other people in community, whether that’s like friends, or through the SDC, or the accommodation specialists are also great. So, I think there are lots of resources. And also just be sure to use those as well.  

Joe: I want to thank you again for taking the time to speak with us today and sharing all of your insight and experience with us. 

Mary: Thank you so much for having me. I feel honored to be able to share a little bit about my experiences and hope that talking about ableism starts the conversation in order to stop creating and perpetuating ableist structures. 

Joe: Absolutely. And I will be sure to invite you back when we have these conversations again in the future. 

Mary: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity. 

Joe: Our last guest for today is Juliette Bryant. Thanks for being with us today. Juliette. 

Juliette: I’m so glad to be here. 

Joe: Could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?  

Juliette: Yeah. So I’m Juliette, I use she her hers pronouns. And the fifth year, interdisciplinary liberal arts major here at CSU. And they also work for the SEED program in SLICE. 

Joe: Can you tell us what SEED and SLICE are? 

Juliette: So, SEED is Students Empowering and Engaging in Dialogue and it’s a group that does workshops about social justice bias. And pretty much any other social justice topics for other students. So, we’re peer educators. And then SLICE is the Student Leadership Involvement and Community Engagement office here at CSU and we do a lot of different programming and fun events. 

Joe: Awesome. You’re very involved on campus. Yeah, can get busy. Julia can tell us a little bit about your experience with ableism. 

Juliette: Yeah, so usually I say don’t face a lot of outright ableism I have multiple invisible disabilities. And so, you can’t tell from looking at me that I’m disabled. But I deal with a lot of like structural and architectural ableism. So, it can be hard to get around campus sometimes. And then I face a lot of ableism in social justice spaces. So, I’m pretty involved with social justice and advocacy work. And a lot of times in those spaces, like disability work is left out. And so, it’s not even mentioned. And so, I’m constantly have to be the one to bring up disability and that you know, disabled people or people and that we deserve justice work as much as anyone else. And then a major thing that I face a lot is when I say I’m disabled people say I’m sorry, in response, which to me, my disability affects my life, but I’m also really proud of it and what I can do, and what I’ve learned from my disability, and so saying, I’m sorry to one of my identities just doesn’t feel right. And it kind of hurts because it’s like, I’d never say that about any other identity. Why are you saying I’m sorry about one of my main identities? 

Joe: I really appreciate you sharing that. I think that’s something a lot of people with disabilities experience is that that sense of pity the society centers, puts on us. Based on your experiences, what are some tips do you think our listeners could use to combat ableism when they see it in society or in their lives? 

Juliette: I think a lot of combating evil ism is just working on making sure you’re not evil, just there’s a lot of like language that we use, like calling people crazy or insane, or lame, that really affects people with disabilities. And so, like just paying attention to your language really helps. And then a great way is to advocate for people, you know, with disabilities, like in a space, like maybe you notice. So, like my friends, sometimes notice when there are chairs for me to sit in, or we’re doing an activity that’s too high energy for me. And so, they will advocate for me and say, Hey, can we get some chairs? Or hey, can we do it this way? So I’m not constantly having to advocate for myself or come up with my own accommodations on the fly. So that’s really helpful. 

Joe: I really appreciate you sharing that. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience today? 

Juliette: Just keep learning about disability and Disability Justice. I think there’s a lot of passive ableism that happens in our society. And once you learn about it, you just continue to witness it all over. And so you just have to keep learning. 

Joe: Absolutely, I think, continuing our own education, and this is so important. What’s really, I really appreciate you taking your time to speak with us today. 

Juliette: Thank you so much for inviting me here. 

Joe: I really want to thank all of our guests for taking their time to speak with us today. And thank them for being open honest with us about their experiences and sharing that with us. As we wrap up. I hope this episode has been eye opening and enlightening and looking at the different ways ableism can show up in society. I also want to recognize that while we had a few guests share their experiences with us, these are just three individuals and their experiences with ableism. So, this is not an allencompassing view on how ableism can show up, but I hope this points out a few different areas that ableism can show up in. If you’d like to contact the Student Disability Center, you can reach us by phone at 970-491-6385 by email at You can visit our website at and you can find us on social media at CSU_SDC. Thank you for taking the time to listen to our episode today. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with our season finale. And until then, take care of yourself. 


Episode 6 Transcript

{Intro Music} 

Joe: Hello, and welcome back to disability dialogues, a podcast from the Student Disability Center, Colorado State University. My name is Joe Tiner, I use the pronouns he, him, and his and I am one of the accommodation specialists at the Student Disability Center.  

Welcome to our season one finale, as well as the end of the spring 2021 semester. For our season finale, we had originally planned to have an episode focused on the experiences and perspectives of disabled people moving through the pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the hectic nature of the end of the semester, that wasn’t able to work out. And so we were able to be adaptable and flexible, and pull together something else instead that we hope you enjoy just as much. 

Because it’s the end of the semester, and we know a lot of our listeners are working on finals preparing for graduation, um, or otherwise dealing with the end of the semester. We plan not to take up too much of your time this week. What we would like to do is take a few minutes, though, to reflect on the past 12 to 18 months as we’ve navigated the pandemic, as individuals as well as a community and a society. The past 12 to 18 months have been challenging to say the least. We’ve gone through a global pandemic that has drastically impacted our lives. We’ve lost friends and loved ones. We’ve had to confront individual and systemic racism that is ever present in our society. We’ve had to navigate a divisive political climate. And we’ve continually been faced with injustice and inequity. And while we’ve had to navigate all of these challenges, we’ve also persevered and been able to adapt and be flexible and create new environments, new ways of being that have enhanced and advanced our lives.  

We’ve learned that we can work from home. We’ve learned there new ways and new technology to enhance learning and engagement. We’ve taken steps in the fight for racial justice, and social equity for all marginalized peoples. And, we found new ways to connect with one another on multiple levels.  

As we move forward and hopefully move out of this pandemic, I hope that we can reflect on the challenges and the opportunities that have presented themselves to us in the past year. I hope that we can use those to inform the way we create our society and our culture moving forward. I think it’s important to moving forward not go back to the way things were before, but to take what we’ve learned and create a new normal, that is adaptable, flexible, and supportive to all people. We need to question our biases, and continue our education around social justice and inclusion. And, most importantly, we need to find ways to continue to support ourselves, each other, and our community, it’s important to remember that we are stronger united and as a community than we are on an individual basis. And if we all push for promoting a new normal moving forward, it will happen.  

As you move forward, think critically about the way we’ve done things in the past year and how can we combine that with what we did before to form this new normal. Think about how we can remove oppression and bias from our policies, practices and ways of being. And, think about how we can not only support ourselves, but support each other, and our community.  

Getting through this pandemic has not been easy, but we’ve been able to do it together and we will continue to move forward together.  

As I said, this is the season finale of our podcast. However we will be back in the future with more episodes. We will be taking a short hiatus at the start of the summer. We plan to be back later this summer and into the fall semester with more episodes. So please follow and subscribe to get notifications of new episodes.  

If you have any feedback on our podcast or have ideas of what you’d like to hear in the future. Please feel free to contact me. You can email me at  

If you’d like to contact the Student Disability Center, you can reach us by phone at 970-491-6385 by email at or you can visit our website  

I thank you all so much for taking the time to listen to us through our first season. We’re excited to be back in the future with more episodes. And we look forward to connecting with you all then until next time. Thanks again for listening and take care of yourselves. Have a wonderful summer.