Sabrina Sadique ’04 didn’t go to any of her sections last fall, but unlike many Yale students, she actually wanted to attend. She had to plan weeks in ahead in order to reach any of her classes. She could not go out on the weekends, even to do simple errands. Getting her tray at the dining hall became a daily chore.
Sadique is the founder of Special Needs Awareness and Peer Services, or SNAPS, a group helping students with disabilities deal with these types of problems. She broke her ankle last fall and was in a wheelchair for four months. Through her personal experience she learned that though Yale’s Resource Office on Disabilities provided services to assist disabled students academically, there was still a need for services to assist in the other areas of their lives. She created SNAPS to meet this need.
“I needed to be wheeled to class, but Yale doesn’t provide human resources. I started this group so there won’t be anyone else who can’t go to class because they can’t wheel themselves,” Sadique said. She emphasized the need for peer support, especially for those with temporary disabilities who have to re-evaluate their entire way of life very quickly.
SNAPS will lend out able students as aides to help with chores such as carrying books from the library or helping with laundry. In addition to providing peer support, it will examine University policies applicable to disabled students. It also aims to promote general awareness of disability on campus.
Simon Wairegi ’05 said he would have appreciated those kinds of services when he tore his Achilles tendon and was on crutches for two months last year.
“[Yale] loaned me a computer, I had physical therapy every day and they were pretty good about getting me to class, the van would come pick me up,” Wairegi said. “But there was no service on the weekend so I was confined to Old Campus and couldn’t do anything, like get my stuff from the bookstore. Sometimes I was hungry but wouldn’t go to lunch because I was too exhausted from hobbling around and couldn’t go to the dining hall. I had to go up and down three flights of stairs to get to my room, and after a while I just jumped down the stairs.”
Judith York, the director of the resource office on disabilities, said many services are offered to permanently or temporarily disabled students — 251 such students registered with the office last year. Among the services provided by the office are books on tape, classroom accommodation, translations into Braille, voice-recognition and voice output software, and note-taking services, all of which are free of charge.
“We provide the services that help the student cope academically,” York said. “I feel good that we do what we try to do, and that SNAPS is going fill in the gap.”
Because of the sensitive nature of the issue the group has had difficulties setting up. Out of almost 300 recipients, nobody responded to the e-mail suggesting the group be formed. Only one person showed up to the first informational meeting.
“Most people don’t want to identify themselves as disabled. They want to be anonymous and self-sufficient,” Sadique said. “One of our goals is to let them know it’s legitimate to ask for help.”
Despite these initial hurdles the group has grown to five board members and 30 volunteers. It will soon meet its first goal by being officially registered as an undergraduate student organization and procuring funding for some of the services it will provide.