My name is Zack Thibodeaux and I am a senior at Yale who is blind. I am writing this column to give the Yale community another perspective on the protests and their effects on people with disabilities. I would like students to understand that their actions have severe consequences on others.

Last week, when the protesters blocked the intersection of Grove and College streets, I had to cross the street to get to Sterling Library. Because the protesters were blocking the intersection, the police were guiding traffic; however, I was unable to see the traffic signals that they were making.

In addition, the protesters were making loud noises that made it impossible for me to hear traffic correctly, which is how blind individuals cross streets safely. When I tried to cross Wall Street to get to Sterling, a car almost hit my guide dog, which has never happened to me. This was because I was unable to hear the car and because traffic was confused.

Since the protests have begun I have been nervous to go around campus because I do not want to accidentally run into protesters or get stuck in an area where I cannot hear traffic. The encampments that have been placed both this week and last week have made it much harder for me to go around campus. When students erect barriers that are not normally part of campus I am unaware of their scope so, I either have to have someone guide me around them or risk running into them. It is very difficult for me to avoid them as I cannot see them or an easy route to get around them. For example, I did not realize how extensive the blockage on College and Grove Street was until my wife described it to me. I also had to have police guide me through the Wall street crossing. Fortunately they were very nice about it. However, if they were not, it would have been very difficult for me to get to my classes. 

Moreover, the driver that almost hit my dog only did not hit me because the police had intervened. This is also very frustrating because I am forced to lose some of my independence to allow people to help me, which can be very humiliating. To be clear, this has never been a problem for me on campus until the protests last week. This includes times where there were other protests occurring on campus, such as the protests surrounding abortion after the Dobbs ruling. 

It is not a problem when protesters demonstrate in approved areas that do not block campus. It is a significant burden when they block others’ access to campus, which is especially difficult on those with disabilities.

It is crucial that protesters understand that blocking streets or sidewalks has serious consequences for others, especially those with disabilities. I insist that the University enforce their policy that protesters stop protesting in areas where they block traffic, interfering with the lives of other students and New Haveners. I ask that students that do not respect the University’s rules, city ordinances, and their fellow students to be disciplined severely. 

Trespassing on University property or obstructing city streets and sidewalks illegally does not have to do with the First Amendment or freedom of speech, and it is causing campus to become unsafe, especially for those with disabilities. I hope the University considers those students who are abiding by the community guidelines and contributing to the Yale’s community productively.

This is exam week, and I hope that these protesters will be held accountable if they hinder students’ access to exams. 

I am disappointed in Yale for allowing its students, faculty and staff to take significant burdens to accommodate those who break the law and its own rules. It is not inclusive of those who have to pay the consequences, and it seems to prioritize those who break Yale’s rules, while marginalizing those who want dialogue. The administration’s continued backpedaling has made it appear that they prioritize political considerations over its mandate to educate its students. It is hurtful because it appears that those who follow the rules, study hard and peacefully debate at an institution dedicated to education will be forced to accommodate those who stir up chaos for their own political beliefs in complete and purposeful disregard for others. The administration will even allow these students to be hindered from accessing certain parts of campus for long periods of time so that protesters can continue to disregard the University’s rules. It makes it appear  that the administration will not take the necessary steps to preserve its educational mission when push comes to shove. I humbly submit that this educational mission is worth confidently defending, and that Yale’s rules on demonstrations are necessary to preserve it. Unfortunately the protesters’ disregard of these rules has caused even greater consequences for those with disabilities and our ability to partake in Yale’s educational opportunities. 

ZACK THIBODEAUX is a senior in Silliman College studying Political Science. He can be reached at