Disabilitea a place to connect

Otago Disabled Students’ Association secretary Hannah Pretious (left) and Disabilitea organiser...
Otago Disabled Students’ Association secretary Hannah Pretious (left) and Disabilitea organiser Renn Darcy enjoy a cuppa at the regular gathering at the Otago University Students’ Association Clubs and Societies Centre on Albany St. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Do not forget about hidden disabilities, says the Otago Disabled Students’ Association.

The association runs Disabilitea, a regular gathering on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm at the Otago University Students’ Association Clubs and Societies Centre on Albany St.

Otago Disabled Students’ Association secretary Hannah Pretious said all the committee members had different disabilities and understood the challenges students faced.

She had multiple complex chronic illnesses, ‘‘which is a mouthful’’.

She also had some mental health challenges, so health for her was about ‘‘managing my whole body and wellbeing’’.

The aim of the group was to ensure people with disability challenges of all types felt there was a place they could go to share experiences and feel less alone.

‘‘Our whole goal is to make the student experience accessible.’’

Disabled Students’ Association Disabilitea organiser Renn Darcy said the aim of the gathering was to ensure everyone felt they had a low pressure environment where everyone felt welcome.

‘‘People kind of just pop in and out when they please.’’

Plenty of options were provided including gluten-free biscuits and a wide range of teas and coffees including decaffeinated options to cater for everyone’s requirements, plus four different types of milks.

Renn had previously needed to use a cane for walking, so understood why having the gathering on the ground floor of Clubs and Societies Centre was important.

Hannah said while some disabilities were obvious, other physical and mental challenges were harder to see, but that did not mean they were any less of a disability.

‘‘Both Renn and I have invisible illnesses.

‘‘Neither of us look disabled.’’

But that did not mean the challenges were any less real.

Some people had looked suspiciously at them when they used disabled parking, Renn said.

‘‘People think if you don’t have a wheelchair you are not actually disabled.’’

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