UMSU Disability set to open new safe space

This October, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union will open the doors to a new safe space in Helen Glass for U of M students living with disabilities.

Bryan Douglas, UMSU representative for students living with disabilities, believes the new safe space would be beneficial for students living with disabilities and would make them feel safe and comfortable.

Douglas said the space will be located in 187 Helen Glass, the former home of the photography club, and is much larger than the previous location in University Centre. The space will also be wheelchair accessible, said Douglas.

“It will give students a place to go to take medication, for example, if they have a panic or anxiety attack,” he said.

“It is designed to be a calming, relaxing and soothing place where students can learn and deal with the symptoms they are suffering from.”

The space will be coordinated and managed by the main UMSU Services office. Consent forms will be made available at the Health and Dental office to use the space, with membership based on self-identification, regardless of whether or not an individual is a member of U of M Student Accessibility Services.

One of the features of new safe space will be a library, where books on different topics will be available for students living with disabilities.

Douglas is currently gathering books for the new library, which can be donated to UMSU at the UMSU offices in University Centre or 177 Helen Glass.

“It would help the students achieve the best academic and personal experience they can get out of the university,” he said.

The U of M’s Student Accessibility Services also welcomed this initiative. Jamie Penner, acting coordinator for Student Accessibility Services, explained that the new safe space will encourage the students living with disabilities to come together.

“It will definitely help students living with disabilities. I’m glad there’ll be a calm place for students to go to get away from stressful situations they might face on campus,” said Penner.

UMSU president Camilla Tapp said UMSU executives are happy for the new safe space, and that it was a priority to be able to offer adequate services and support for students living with disabilities at the U of M.

“All students can find university studies and the campus environment overwhelming at times, and if a student happens to have a visible or invisible disability, this feeling can be even stronger,” she said.

“A safe space on campus gives all students living with disabilities a place where they can go and be guaranteed a discrimination-free environment, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” said Tapp.

She added that once the service is up and running, “it can be re-evaluated and expanded upon to potentially include a paid, part-time coordinator in the future.”