“All my life, I’ve been the elephant in the room, I’ve been part of a minority group, so I know I have the passion, and I know I’ve lived through enough important experiences that prepared me for this role,” said Bobbie Hickey, candidate for DCU Students’ Union (DCUSU) Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.
Hickey was born blind, and along with her guide dog Josie, hopes her life experiences will help her if she is elected to the SU.
The third-year communications student has grown up surrounded by insensitivity, but said that what offends her most is when people are too afraid to address her.
“When there is anything different about you, people are scared to offend you, so they just try to forget you exist,” she said.
As VP for diversity and inclusion, Hickey’s goal is to cultivate a more communicative and understanding culture on campus.
Her first step is education. Hickey plans to kick off regular sign language classes available for all DCU students.
“When it comes to visual impairment, I’m obviously aware of how difficult it is, but I have no idea what it’s like for people with hearing loss, and I can’t imagine not being able to lip-read right now because everyone is wearing a mask,” she said. “
Hickey believes “everyone should have a basic level of sign language.”
Hickey added that she wants to “heavily advise” every shop on campus to have at least two staff members who have basic sign language proficiency to ensure everyone can communicate clearly.
A crucial part of inclusion education is listening to other people’s stories, according to Hickey, which is why a large part of her campaign revolves around inviting guest speakers to campus.
“Every two weeks, a speaker will come into the college who’s grown up in a different country to talk about the stereotypes they face, and how the media portrays growing up in that country,” she said. The events would finish with a Q&A session.
Hickey said she recognises that ethnic diversity is what most people think of when they hear the word diversity. Still, given what she has gone through with her sight, she wants to bring an added focus to disability awareness.
The 22-year-old plans to hold events called ‘Powerful Paras and Powers’, where some of Ireland’s most successful power and para-athlete will come to campus to share their experiences.
Power athletes are those with cognitive disabilities such as autism, or Down syndrome, whereas para-athletes are those with physical disabilities like sight impairment or missing limbs.
“There are so many para and power athletes and Olympians in Ireland who aren’t really spoken about, so we can definitely bring them into the spotlight,” Hickey said.
Outside of largescale community events like public speaker sessions, Hickey has several plans to make DCU’s campus more accessible and inclusive to students every day.
These goals include painting a yellow line on every foot step, flying LGBTQA flags around campus, and not forcing students into choosing either male or female when registering for classes.
Voting for DCUSU elections takes place on March 24th and 25th, information on all candidates can be found at https://www.lead.dcusu.ie/
Devin Sean Martin
Image Credit: Bobbie Hickey