Students Embracing Disabilities (SED) ran a simulation Thursday encouraging students and faculty to experience first hand the daily challenges faced by those with disabilities on campus.

Students from the group handed out glasses, among other items, to students in Smith Union so they could walk around campus for either five minutes or the entire day simulating hearing or visual impairment.

"The purpose of the day [was] not solely to make people aware that students, faculty, and staff at Bowdoin have disabilities. It's more about opening up a conversation about disability. I think a lot of people, including myself, are hesitant to talk about disabilities because we've been raised to treat them with such hypersensitivity," said Co-President of SED Alicia Wong '07.

"As a result, there is very little dialogue about the subject, and the less people talk about disability, the less people understand it, and the more uncomfortable people are when they encounter it," she said.

SED members also made themselves accessible in the union to discuss issues of disabilities and share their personal experiences with interested students, in addition to holding a dinner Thursday in Moulton to discuss the simulation's outcome.

The group has put up maps of the College around campus, marking handicap-inaccessible buildings with an "X". Wong said the intention is to highlight the challenges faced by students with disabilities and not to criticize the College.

"Bowdoin has done a pretty good job administratively" for students with disabilities, said Co-President of SED Brooke James '06.

Wong and James are two of many students on campus with disabilities. Wong has Arthrogryposis, which prevents upper limb muscles from ever growing, and causes those limbs to have tight joints and consequentially little mobility?such as not being able to bend the elbows.

James has the rare juvenile form of macular degeneration called Stargardt's Disease, which since age 13 has caused her to continually lose sight.

James said occasionally she has to go to the chalkboard to be able to read the professor's notes, which sometimes draws confused looks in big classes. In smaller classes, she said she tells students about her disability at the beginning of the semester so they are not surprised when she has to move around to see.

"It's frustrating when students stare at you," James said. "People shouldn't stare. It's not polite."

Just this week James said a student was staring at her as she viewed her computer monitor at close range in one of the labs.

SED was started several years ago and is advised by Assistant Dean and Director of Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Joanne Canning.