Minor: Actuarial science
Her Campus: When did you develop an interest in serving the disability community at UF?
Preeya Mody: “My interest began as soon as I stepped foot onto this campus. As a student who identifies with a physical disability, I am very passionate about policies that affect individuals with disabilities and disability awareness as a whole. What motivated me to apply to the Disability Affairs Cabinet (DAC) was the fact that the it is the ideal place to build a community for students with disabilities, a community that essentially lacks the ‘community’ aspect. The possibility of attaining an increasingly healthy and inclusive environment for students who identify with a disability inspires me to serve UF through student government.”
HC: What are the most important issues to students with disabilities?
PM: “I believe that here at UF, spreading awareness is one of the most important issues. Disability is such a wide spectrum, and through my experiences I find that students tend to associate disability with a wheelchair or a visual impairment. Many students do not realize how much disability encompasses, which can be frustrating for many students with disabilities. Overall, I find that students with disabilities call for more awareness, such as social and educational programs created to debunk the stigma surrounding those with disabilities. Also, students want recognition in everyday life whether it is a voice in policies that affect them, opportunities for leadership roles or inclusivity, such as accessibility to all campus events.”
HC: What relationships have you built with the students you represent?
PM: “As a cabinet director, I serve the needs and wants of students with disabilities. Consequently, in order to hear the voices of these students, I worked with the Disability Resource Center to establish a Disability Advisory Committee in which students will have the opportunity to state their opinions regarding policies on campus, changes they would like to see and events that I put on through cabinet. By managing this committee and hosting several events throughout the year, I have formed strong friendships and genuine connections with individuals who share a similar passion. In a sense, we have formed our own family, which is expanding as more students look for leadership opportunities. Ultimately, a goal of mine is to create a more supportive and inclusive community for students with disabilities. I envision a home where students with disabilities can feel welcomed and empowered, and I believe this committee is the start of it.”
HC: As the cabinet director, how have you changed how disability affairs are handled?
PM: “My team and I have put on six events thus far, and we are currently planning for at least three more. Some of these events include the DRC open house, where students tour Cypress Hall and learn about the services offered by the DRC; the Accessibility Fair, where disability-related organizations showcase different opportunities for students to engage in as we celebrate the diversity of disabilities; and the Lizzie Velasquez Movie Screening, where we partner with First Year Florida to bring awareness to the social challenges that come with identifying with a disability. In addition to hosting large-scale events, I try to focus disability affairs on the wants and needs of students in order to grant accessibility to all those who identify with a disability. As an advocate for students with disabilities, I need to hear from them first. I need to know what changes they want to see and what events they think would benefit the disability culture on campus. I also focus a lot on accessibility, not just in a physical sense, but also in terms of using inclusive language so that all students may feel comfortable and safe. Although the population of students with disabilities is considered a minority, we deserve equal representation within SG. I wanted the DAC to open up better communication with this population to understand what issues and topics are most important to students with disabilities. In order to achieve this goal, I switched the direction of cabinet from event planning to increasing interaction with students with disabilities. Through this medium, not only do I get to interact with students more and hear their voices, but I also get to use their input as I plan my events.”
HC: If you could combat one obstacle faced by students with disabilities, what would it be?
PM: “If I could combat one obstacle faced by students with disabilities, it would be the lack of awareness and educational programs. Because disability includes such a diverse population in and of itself, I find that many students on campus are still unaware of what disability actually encompasses. By spreading awareness about disability, not only would we inform individuals about its presence, but we would also take a stand for representation and accessibility.”
Photo Credits: Preeya Mody