Arts & Life, Features

Q&A with the new commissioner for Disability Affairs

Between her new duties and working on campus at the 49er Shops Communications Department, second-year Samantha Brown is busy with reimagining positive experiences for students with disabilities at Long Beach State.

This month, Associated Students Inc. Senate appointed the political science and communications major as commissioner for disability affairs. While the position is new to Brown, her involvement with the disabled community started as early as elementary school.

The Daily 49er spoke with Brown to talk about her roots in working with the community as well as her future goals for LBSU in her position as commisioner.  

During the senate meeting you mentioned your involvement with the Best Buddies club in high school. What was that experience like and how did it carry over to the new role that you have now?

I was never a part of Best Buddies club in high school, I did participate in a few of their activities and programs and I took some inspiration from a really close friend that was actually president of the Best Buddies club. I kind of got my inspiration from him, he was absolutely very passionate about it and I was able to participate in a lot of activities they did. A lot of work that I’ve done with the community has actually went back to when I was in elementary school; we kind of had like a pseudo disabilities program. There were two children actually in my class with down syndrome so I was always seated next to one of the individuals who had down syndrome. I was basically his helper throughout elementary school and that’s what pretty much started my interest and love for the community.

When did you get involved with ASI at LBSU? Were you involved in anything in specific?

I actually was never really involved with ASI before my commissioner position. I just saw the position availability on the ASI website and I applied for it and then I ended up getting an interview and then I got appointed to the position.

What made you want to get involved in the position of commissioner?

I believe that the disabilities community on campus is a very underrepresented group when it comes to policy and overall advocacy and so I guess what made me most interested was to be a voice for people who don’t have the same platform that I would, like for example being part of student government. I want to see that voice behind this whole community that all have different special things about them that need certain aspects to be changed or policies to be implemented so I kind of wanted to be the action behind all of this and actually do things for this community because ultimately a lot of times they’re overlooked which I wanted to see changed.

What was it like before in terms of representation and help for the disabled community here and how do you feel that you can change that or make it better?

I feel like the resources available on campus for the community are very strong and I believe that they are very very involved in the lives of students so I don’t believe that necessarily the people and the staff behind it need to be changed. I think that it’s more policy, like for example maybe with transportation or even education of the general public at this school. For example, one of my campaigns that I want to work on is dismantling ableist language throughout campus and I think those are just some of the things, just bringing more awareness to the community and understanding that disabilities is a wide spectrum that needs to be understood and respected as such. That’s kind of what I want to see changed.

Do you have any other specific campaigns that you can think of or goals that you’d like to achieve in your time as commissioner?

I also want to make transportation more accessible to students on campus, for example the shuttling system. This was also brought up in my appointment meeting like how a lot of students within the community have trouble getting throughout campus so that’s something I’d like to work on. I also want to work on overall campus safety and just accessibility. Maybe there are some areas of campus that simply aren’t accessible for people within the community and that’s something I definitely want to work on. Another big part of my time that I want to see changed throughout my term is I want to create more website accessibility for the community as well and make PDFs and documents accessible through clubs and organizations websites because that’s really important and I think that’s overlooked a lot everywhere not even just on our campus.  

If you had a day off what’s something you’d like to do?

I would love to have a really nice lunch with my best friend and then probably go out and either watch a movie or go shopping and then just kind of come home and wind down and play with my cat that’s something I want to do so bad[ly].

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