Disabled freshman feels welcome on campus

For freshman Felicia Sisco, the sense of community at John Brown University is a source of comfort.

Sisco was born with Arthrogryposis, a rare joint disease that has resulted in 14 surgeries and physical therapy. Although she knows that she is unable to represent all JBU students with disabilities, she says that her experience has been filled with helpfulness so far.

Sisco grew up in Fayetteville, Ark., and has thought about attending the University for a while.

“I like that the campus is small enough to be independent, but still close enough to home if I need my parents for anything,” Sisco said.

Sisco added that her suite mates, who are friends from high school, are always willing to help out when she needs help. Her roommate, though they did not even meet until early registration, is there to assist with things as well.

“I have good days and bad days,” Sisco said. “I’m in chronic pain and some days, even easy and simple tasks are hard.”

Even though Sisco knows that there are people who do not look past the outward appearance of their peers, she is thankful for those that do. She wants people to realize that it is important to view students with disabilities with respect too.

“Everyone’s experiences are different. The best way to help is to get to know the person first,” Sisco said. “I think people misunderstand us a lot. My disability is only one aspect of me.”

She noted that one of the hardest things about being a student with a disability at college is that she has to ask for help from friends instead of family.

She added that Jackie Wright, director of student support services, is very helpful in assisting students with disabilities and getting them the resources they need.

“The concept of being a student with a disability changes when students enter college,” Wright said. “Students must self-identify [the need for help.] Unless a student comes to me, nothing happens.”

Wright said that the extent of aid she can offer a student varies, because each students’ needs are individualized, but she helps make sure the students have the accommodations, classroom information and facilities they need to be successful.

“My favorite part of my job is getting to work with students,” Wright said. “Students with disabilities are no different. I enjoy getting to know them on a personal level, and provide the assistance that they need.”

Wright encourages that any student with any type of disability to take advantages of the services that can be offered to them on campus.

For Sisco, knowing that there is always the support from someone who cares is a very comforting thing.

“Everyone is different. Everyone has a story,” Sisco said. “Ask them about their story. Most are willing to share if they are asked.”

Sisco noted that her life verse is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, because it reminds her that even though she may be different on the outward appearance, that the Lord is still able to do wonderful things through her life.

“Sometimes the spiritual aspect is lost in translation,” Sisco said. “I may be physically broken, but I am spiritually whole.”