The Graduate Student Council discussed ways it can support disabled students, including a project to help guide blind students across campus with their sense of hearing, at its October meeting on Tuesday.
GSC President Tiffany Miller introduced the project with Student Government Association in 2018 for the installation of several wind chimes across campus, each with a unique tone set at different locations to help blind and visually impaired students know where they are. The idea comes from a similar student government initiative for guiding wind chimes at Texas A&M in 2016.
Now the project may come closer to fruition as Miller and other student leaders plan to facilitate a meeting between a group of blind and visually impaired students and several administrators, including President Neal Smatresk.
Miller said the main concern from students in the Blind and Visually Impaired Alliance was a “lack of inclusivity” of their disability at UNT that a project like the wind chimes could help address.
“So a student who is blind or visually impaired is navigating campus and they find themselves lost or in an unfamiliar area, or they’re just trying to navigate, they rely quite a bit on hearing as a better sense,” Miller said. “[The chimes] rely on a few things. People have to be around campus long enough to know certain sounds are associated with certain locations, so that takes a little time to build up. But if they’re there, it’s something people can rely on.”
Miller said the GSC could continue SGA’s progress on the project, which already had approved student government legislation and potential funding from organizational accounts and the Dean of Students office.
“[The project] is relatively inexpensive,” Miller said. “It’s something we can do quickly to start addressing some needs that our community has brought up. It is, by no means, the only issue they brought up. But it could help a little bit more quickly and could be implemented relatively more quickly than some of the other concerns.”
Miller attended a Deaf Connect meeting of deaf and hard-of-hearing students with Smatresk, where they shared feedback on the university’s accommodations to their disability. GSC representatives helped compile a list of their needs for Smatresk and UNT staff to consider.
“President Smatresk asked our Director of Communications Christiana Walker, who is also a member of the deaf community to put together a document with all the concerns they brought up […] and send it to him for his office to start tackling,” Miller said. “We will be periodically checking in and seeing how things are going with that. Some things on campus move very quickly, other things take more time, so hopefully, some of those are easy things they can address in little time.”
Featured Image: President of the Graduate Student Council, Tiffany Miller, conducts a virtual meeting on Oct. 6, 2020. Courtesy Zoom