Thursday, April 2, 2015

Biology is not René Talbot’s best subject. But one day her biology professor gave a lecture on amino acids and then displayed a bright, big children’s toy. At that moment, Talbot said the light bulb went off.

“He brought the entire class along with him,” she said, when her professor engaged the class in a discussion by using what is known as universal design. The approach refers to designing products and spaces so they can be used by the widest range of people possible.

Talbot said her professor may not have known it, but he was recognizing that there is a broad spectrum of human ability and a variety of ways to learn. This is the approach she hopes all faculty and staff will adopt after participating in Northeastern’s (Dis)ability Project.

Led by Northeastern’s Student Disability Services office, the (Dis)ability Project is a comprehensive training and resource program that will launch on Thursday, April 9, with an event from 9 a.m.-noon in Alumni Hall. (Please RSVP to Guest speaker Isabel Garcia, president of Parent to Parent of Miami, Fla., will talk about how Northeastern can support Latino students with disabilities in the transition from K-12 to higher education.

The goal of the (Dis)ability Project is to better equip faculty and staff who interact with students with all kinds of disabilities. The project includes training workshops and a resource guide. Click here for more information.

Talbot, an Interdisciplinary Studies major, works in the Student Disability Services office. From helping students fill out documents to working on the Disability Project’s resource guide, she is passionate about supporting her fellow students.

Student Disability Services Director Douglas Lawson said Talbot’s contributions are vital to cross-university engagement in the project. “People are generally nervous about serving students with disabilities,” Lawson said. “This project develops resources so they can support students. It’s about putting more tools in people’s toolboxes.”

Both Lawson and Talbot echo that the project goal is to take the “dis” out of “disability,” and educate all Northeastern staff and faculty, which could position Northeastern to be an institution of choice for individuals with disabilities.

That likelihood is one Talbot is banking on. “We could make ourselves more accessible,” she said. “We’re a state institution in the third-largest city in the country. Think of all the potential.”