Meet Cole Glosser, a senior majoring in sport management with a minor in disability studies. He currently serves as president of the Disability Advocacy Student Coalition (DASC), a student-run organization that spreads awareness about disability and accessibility on campus and out in the community. We caught up with the Austin native to learn more about his advocacy work, and how he is leading efforts to make the university a more inclusive, accessible and welcoming place.
How has DASC benefitted your undergraduate experience?
Growing up with a type of Cerebral Palsy called Hemiplegia, I haven’t found a community of folks with the same condition, but it’s nice finding other students with disabilities within DASC who share similar experiences. The friendships I’ve made have been incredible, and it’s just nice being around people who are always thinking about ways to inform the campus community about disability issues and to make college the best experience for all students.
Could you share a little about the events DASC hosts every year?
We host several events including Disability Fest in the fall and Dinner in the Dark in the spring. Disability Fest involves various booths and simulated activities that show people what it’s like to navigate life with a disability. For safety reasons, we will implement elements of Disability Fest into Dinner in the Dark in the spring and instead pursue a virtual disability film screening and panel discussion for the fall. With Dinner in the Dark, we show people what it’s like to eat dinner with a visual impairment by putting them in blindfolds and serving them a catered dinner. They also get to hear students speak about their own experiences during the event. These events are always evolving, and lately we’ve been exploring new ways to spread awareness without simulated activities like wheelchair obstacle courses, which can be problematic if they lack the educational piece. We want to make these events as respectful as they can possibly be.
What events to do you have in the works?
I’m very focused on studying intersectionality and exploring questions like, “What does it mean for disability to intersect with different sexualities?” So, I’m currently working on a new speaker series that delves into these issues. Recently I had a grad student discuss disability and race, and later this month I plan on scheduling a guest speaker who teaches disability and musicking.
What more would you like to see the university doing to make the campus a more inclusive and accessible place for students with disabilities?
A Disability Cultural Center would be a great step in the right direction. Students would highly benefit from having a social space on campus, where they can relax among friends and also learn and talk about disability advocacy. It would be a great way for the university to send the message out to incoming freshmen that says, “We care about you and thought about you in this process.” There has been a big response from the student body to get this ball moving. In our feedback surveys, we have close to 1,000 responses from students who expressed their desire for the cultural center. Last August, we presented it to the VP for student engagement, and later this fall we have reached out to several different councils in Student Government. We’ve gotten pretty far moving this forward, and I’m optimistic it will happen.
In terms of classroom and learning environments, accessible online learning is so beneficial to students with disabilities. Now that we’re going back to classrooms in person, I would like to see a lot of improvements (closed captions in videos, pre-taped lectures, hybrid options, etc.) continue long after the pandemic. I’m hoping UT will see the value in putting those measures in place because they are so beneficial for a wide array of students.
What advice would you give to an incoming student with disabilities?
If they have a diagnosis and need accommodations, my best advice is to go to Services for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible. It’s so important to get those accommodations in place right from the start. I would also advise them to find other students with disabilities who can share advice and insight. The disability community at UT is fantastic in sharing knowledge and resources.
What does Disability Awareness Month mean to you?
Disability Awareness Month means recognizing and celebrating people with various types of disabilities. We are here. We exist. We deserve our recognition—and that can come in many different forms. For me, that means recognizing current struggles and finding ways to create access and inclusion for all members of the disability community.