It is certainly an honour for Kyra Mulders (23), yet at the same time, she also feels a bit of unease about her nomination for Student of the Year. “When I saw the other nominees, I thought: ‘They have done so much more, they deserve this more than I do.’” The Health Sciences student spoke out in November about how inaccessible the campus is. She called the campus “a veritable hell for people in wheelchairs”. “By speaking up, I wanted that to help improve the campus for others, for new students. I don’t really like being in the spotlight. I’d prefer to ‘ just’ have an accessible campus.” That attitude is in fact what landed her the nomination.
Studium Generale and EM are looking for the Student of the Year. Not someone who excelled with high grades or a lot of study credits, but a student who has selflessly committed themselves to others. This can be within the study, outside the study, in student life, in a personal capacity or something completely different. The polls are now open!
Not everything has to be a competition for Kyra. The high-achievement culture, in her view, only exacerbates inequality in society. “And whenever someone with a impairment wins something, then ‘despite their impairment’ is always added to that. That just encourages pigeonholing.” Which is precisely what Kyra does not want to amplify. “People see an impairment as something that needs to be solved, whereas society should accept diversity.”
Based on the idea ‘born with an impairment, handicapped by society’, Kyra’s grandfather lets children experience what it is like to have a functional impairment. He holds guest lectures at schools. This way, children can overcome their prejudices. During these lessons, children can, for example, experience what it is like to be in a wheelchair. These days, her mother has taken over. Kyra herself prefers a more academic approach. She is doing a research internship focussed on how students with physical disabilities experience higher education in the Netherlands.
Stigma and raising awareness
According to Kyra, a more accessible campus, or a more accessible society, starts with raising awareness. And there is still a lot of gains to be made in this area. People often don’t seem to think twice about what they say to her. “One time I was in a café with my boyfriend and when he stood up, someone came up to me and asked: ‘What is wrong with you?’ A stranger just came out with that question. Whenever my boyfriend and I are together, people speak to him. Even when it’s about me.” Another low point was when someone came up to her on the street. “She said: ‘I’ve had a really bad day, but when I look at you, I see that it could always be worse.'”
Kyra sees again and again that people with an impairment are perceived as being somehow ‘less’, for example, less clever, and that has a huge impact. “I know from the figures that people with disabilities are less likely to find a job and more likely to find work beneath their level of education. So, you work really hard and study so much harder that you tend to overcompensate. That is at the expense of something else and that’s often your social contacts.”
Vote here for the Student of the Year
Who is your Student of the Year? Sandra Garstka, Kyra Mulders, Geneeskundestudenten In De…
Good for everyone
Kyra is convinced that accessibility is good for everyone. “For people with a visible, invisible or temporary impairment. It’s not just good for a single individual, as institutions are often inclined to think, but for other people as well. Plenty of other people benefit from it too.” If her nomination for Student of the Year can help with raising that awareness, then that is already a win for Kyra.
Find out more about Kyra:
What is your favourite colour? “Blue, especially navy blue.”
Do you prefer watching movies or series? “I like movies more, but I tend to watch series more often. Series I switch on for a while and can also watch endlessly. Like Grey’s Anatomy, for one. I like to take my time when watching a film. I also enjoy thinking about it from a philosophical point of view.”
What is your favourite book? ” That’s so hard to choose! Choosing a genre is hard enough. I like to read almost anything, especially literature, fantasy and philosophical books. I keep track of the books I read in an app, but even then I still can’t choose.”