From the Duck Pond, to the university’s Pueblo Style architecture, to the public art along the walkways, the University of New Mexico’s main campus almost invites people to visit and take in the campus’ beauty.
But for UNM graduate student Travis Davis, who uses a wheelchair, and other UNM students, the campus can look less like a beautiful urban center, and more like an obstacle course. As the president of UNM ADAPT, Davis has made it his mission to help the University of New Mexico become more open and inclusive to those members of the UNM community who may use wheelchairs, scooters, or other means to get from class to class.
“What we want to do is educate people who may not know much about disabilities, and show them parts of the campus that aren’t accessible that they don’t really think about. If we get enough people thinking about it and having conversations, then instead of it changing at one time, each individual group or department can look at how they can become more inclusive and gradually we can start to see change as a whole.”
Recently Davis has been working with the university’s Panhellenic Council to encourage more people with disabilities to get involved with UNM’s Greek Life and other student activities. He hopes that together, more disabled students will understand that they are welcome part of the UNM community.
“I think a lot of times prospective students with disabilities take a look at the campus and see that it’s maybe not accessible so they don’t want to come here. Or they may look at some of the houses that Greek Life has and see that they aren’t accessible and don’t even want to be a part of Greek Life. When on the Greek Life side, they are so accommodating and they are willing to work with individuals that have disabilities, but the students that have disabilities don’t know that because they haven’t reached out.”
Davis is currently finishing his master’s degree work in UNM’s School of Education. After completing his master’s degree, he plans to continue trying to make his community friendlier to people with disabilities, eventually creating his own nonprofit to advocate on their behalf.
“I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills with UNM ADAPT. I’ve been able to empower my friends and the people around me to create change. I’ve learned so much about myself as a disabled individual and how I can help improve the world and make it more inclusive. So I think it’s really given me more confidence and leadership skills to go out in the world and make an impact.
“It sounds cliché, but I just want to create change and help make this world a lot more inclusive. I think people generally believe that our world is inclusive and that buildings are inviting to everybody, whether they have a disability or not. But that’s not necessarily the case, and I want to empower as many people as possible to help in creating this inclusive community. I want to see change happen, and I know it begins a little at a time.”