Guiding Baylor to Be More Accessible for Students With Disabilities

April 10, 2024
Brenna Colihan

Brenna Colihan, a Senior at Baylor University living with multiple disabilities, has worked to ensure Baylor is accessible to all students across campus. She is the President of Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society for Disabled Students and the Director of Accessibility for Student Government. She was also in the athletic bands for multiple years, but having multiple disabilities limited her ability to continue fully participating in this extracurricular activity.

Brenna’s Baylor family line began with her dad, who graduated from Baylor in 1989. “I promised my dad at age six that I would be a Baylor Bear just like him, and here I am, graduating a year early with a degree in Medical Humanities,” she said. 

Brenna has multiple disabilities, but she doesn’t let them prevent her from living her life to the fullest. “For a long time, my disability was something I was ashamed of and wanted to hide, but I learned that I had no reason to be ashamed.” She found strength in her disability from pride, friends, family, and advocacy. “This is not to say that having a community has ‘cured me,’ but I am incredibly confident in my disabilities and hope to help others feel the same.”

One of her goals as a disabled student is to support others with disabilities. In 2023, Brenna established the first BU Accessibility Week. She said, “Our main goal for the event is to demonstrate the importance of accessibility. We are working to make the discomfort surrounding disability and access a thing of the past and show the many ways someone can support those with a disability.” This year, the team celebrated with informational tabling events, disability movie night, and an adaptive aquatic fitness class, and they hope to host a Silent Disco later this semester!

In her freshman year, Brenna was also able to modify the Campus Living & Learning housing accommodation process to make information more accessible to students seeking these accommodations. She also worked to ensure students were able to choose their roommates and dorm building so they could feel more comfortable and be closer in proximity to their classes. Along with her widespread reach and impact, Brenna has supported students on an individual basis and advocated for her disabled peers. She said, “I consistently have other disabled students come to me for help, which leaves me feeling fulfilled.”

Brenna finds her purpose in supporting and advocating for individuals with disabilities. She hopes BU Accessibility Week—along with other efforts toward access and acceptance—continue long after she has graduated. Brenna plans to go into disability law because of the lessons she has learned here at Baylor and the love she has gained for this type of work that promotes true accessibility, equity, and inclusion. She said, “I hope one day I can come back and see the strides made by not only myself but the future generations of advocates.”