During Disability Awareness Month and Every Other Month, Jim Wice Makes Wellesley More Accessible
Jim Wice’s name is everywhere at Wellesley. Look at campus advertisements and you'll find " jwice" included under disabilities or accommodations (or sometimes the mysterious abbreviation dis or acc). This information is provided so that students or guests looking to attend an on-campus event know whom to contact about accommodation requests.
Wice is director of Disability Services at Wellesley, and his job is to help those with disabilities fully participate in campus life.
In order to do that, his office assists students, staff, faculty and guests in a variety of ways. There is the Access Van, which provides weekday transportation to students with permanent and temporary disabilities across campus as well as to off-campus medical appointments. For students who require assistance in the classroom, the office provides student note-takers, certified American Sign Language interpreters and cued speech transliterators. There is also an Assistive Technologies Lab, where students can learn how to use software such as the Kurzweil 3000 or LiveScribe Pens. His name is also on campus advertisements so that students or guests looking to attend an on-campus event know whom to contact about accommodation requests.
For Wice, the most meaningful part of his job is his long-term work with students. “For me, it is seeing individual students that have gone through four years or more and succeeded,” said Wice. “They may have had to work hard, they may have had to use significant services. Being there for Commencement and seeing those students graduate is positive.
“It’s also great to see some physical change, too,” Wice added. He was involved in the process of making Harambee House accessible for people with disabilities. He has also been involved in the process of making Slater International Center accessible, which is scheduled to be renovated in summer 2013.
Wice has worked in disability services for the past twenty years, but he didn’t expect to make a career in this field. He acquired a disability after his first year in college and became involved with student organizations and supporting staff at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After graduating with a B.A. in mechanical engineering, he was offered an interim position as Assistant Director of Disability Services.
“As I was working there, I became more interested and took a few graduate-level counseling classes,” Wice said. “Something opened up at UMass Boston, so I went to work there and also got my Masters’ degree in rehabilitation counseling. It was pretty unexpected, not something I was looking for.”
In addition to Wice, the Disability Services team includes Suzanne Flint, Cued Speech Transliterator and Administrative Assistant; five student drivers of the Access Van, which offers weekday transportation to students with permanent and temporary disabilities to on- and off-campus locations; student note-takers; and a student assistant who works with assistive technologies like the Kurzweil 3000, an assistive technology for reading.
Wice is also joined by a new student organization. Wellesley Voices for Disability (WVD) was founded this year by Connie Chen ’15. The organization acts as the liaison between Disability Services and the student community, promotes awareness on campus, publishes newsletters on disability issues, and hosts trivia bowls and discussion forums. WVD also matches trained Wellesley “big sisters” (with and without disabilities) with “little sisters” in order to foster understanding, support and mentorship.
“Once we are aware,” said Chen, “we can start thinking about others. While this organization will involve many others’ passions and hopes to support the disability community on campus and beyond, it is also the manifestation of my dream for Wellesley.”
In honor of Disability Awareness Month during October, the Disability Services Office organized a series of events. In partnership with the Center for Work and Service, the office hosted a panel discussion on “Disability and the Workplace,” which gave attendees information about the job search process for students with disabilities (the photo that accompanies this article includes panelists from this discussion, from Left to Right: Bob Foley, Raytheon; Sarah Babineau, Independent Speaker/Partners Healthcare; Bill Kessler, City of Boston; Jim Wice, Wellesley College; Gregg Ames, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission). And, on October 24th, Wice held a screening and discussion of Lives Worth Living, a documentary on the disability rights movement. Wice also hosts a monthly community-wide lunch and discussion on different topics relating to disability awareness.
“At other schools, a lot of the time the disability services staff worry more that the students with disabilities won’t get as involved, have as much work experience or pursue their interests in other things,” said Wice. “I have a lot less of that concern at Wellesley.”
-Gabrielle Linnell '13