Fliers around Simmons spark debate about ableism

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By Ellen Garnett

Staff Writer

This week, the Class of 2018 Doctor of Physical Therapy students posted public service announcement fliers around both Simmons academic and residential campuses. The fliers feature quick tips on how to stay fit, which were not well received by some students, who argue that their language and messages are ableist.


An example of a poster viewed as non-problematic (L) and a poster viewed as problematic (R). Source: Jack O’Dwyer

One such poster read, “Because you’re taking the elevator, you owe your booty 5 squats per floor.” This poster was located in the elevator of Lefavour Hall.

Another poster had a photo of Disney’s Quasimodo and read, “Leave the hunchback to Quasimodo… Pull those shoulders down and back!! Do this throughout the day to stretch your chest and decrease stress on your neck and back…Hold for 30 secs repeat 3x.”

The Voice is unsure at this time whether or not the posters had been approved by the administration prior to hanging them up.

These posters appear in light of last week’s Student Government Association townhall meeting on ableism.

“Also, can we stop encouraging ‘fitness’ by shaming people? Like I will decide what kinds of activities are best for my body and health,” said junior Simran Gupta on a Facebook thread regarding the squat poster.

Not all posters were deemed problematic, such as one poster which advises using a tennis ball or soup can to relieve feet soreness.

However, students pointed out that while the posters are most likely well-intentioned, the messages are ableist, as they shame people who have no other choice but to take the elevator.

Senior Kelly Schwing expressed outrage at the posters discouraging elevator usage as she has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for four years.

“The audacity to put signs outside the campus elevators shaming me for taking said elevators, updating me that the toll is 5 squats per floor, is offensive,” said Schwing.

“My life with MS is not an easy one and I find it upsetting that the people I do and will continue to turn to for strengthening are the ones ignorantly putting me down.”


A poster advocating for students to exercise in order to prevent bone density loss by running, dancing, and jumping rope. Source: Mackenzie Farkus

“This is an outrage to the disabled community on campus,” said Schwing. “These students are going to be working with people like me and they should be made aware of the gravity of the situation when you ability-shame the disabled.”

At the time of publication, Schwing had not yet received a response from the Physical Therapy Department.

The fliers’ appearance on campus this week also coincides with National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week. According to NEDAawareness.org, “30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.”

Many students hope that in the future, there is more forethought in the language used in the physical therapy fliers because framing the message of a poster can make all the difference.