Glenn Roy Blundon was a student at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), majoring in Economic Geography. He lived in the Doyle House residence on campus. He grew up in Conception Bay in a town called Bay de Verde.
On February 18th, 1984, Glenn passed away in his 26th year but left an impact still felt today.
There was little to no support for students with disabilities on campus. As a result, in the 1970s, Memorial’s Organization for the Disabled (MOD) was formed but unfortunately was not successful in maintaining membership.
In 1982, the society was renamed Memorial’s Organization for the Disabled II (MOD-II). Glenn became the President and was the spark and driving force behind kick-starting the society again. Under Glenn’s leadership, MOD II successfully raised funds, attained office space, and recruited new members. MOD II’s office was in room 1046 of the Science building.
According to The Muse, in March of 1983, the MOD-II organization “enlisted 30-35 members and appointed an executive and held 15 meetings.”
Blundon wrote a letter in July of 1983 stating MOD-II’s goals, “This organization… as well as being a support group is also a social group… not only for the disabled but for all students who wish to help. When problems arise concerning mobility, etc… we will hopefully notify the required personnel of the university so that the problem will be dealt with in a reasonable fashion.”
According to former MOD-II member Michael S. Ralph, the group’s members had a wide range of disabilities, including “mobility impaired students who used wheelchairs, crutches and/or braces, blind or partially sighted members, and hearing impaired or deaf students.”
The campus was inaccessible, and some professors were known to say that students with disabilities should not be in university; this was a common attitude at the time. Students in wheelchairs had difficulty opening doors, and water fountains were too high for them to reach. Addressing the issues of students with disabilities was not a priority for MUN officials.
Getting the administration to take their concerns seriously was one of the biggest challenges, and the administration was reluctant to meet with MOD-II. There was one incident when the administration agreed to meet, but they asked where the students with disabilities were upon their arrival. This was a time when not all disabilities were recognized, and only some physical disabilities were valid — the image many people had of a disabled person who someone in a wheelchair.
The ignorance of the higher-ups made it difficult to improve conditions on campus — but not impossible. The MOD-II group was eventually able to make tangible progress. Glenn said in a Muse article that, with the efforts of MOD II, “conditions are a lot better than when I first came here in 1977.”
The Muse stated in 1983 that MOD-II members were consulted regarding renovations and new construction projects.
Ralph states that MUN spent approximately $300,000 to make campus buildings accessible. Some of the group’s biggest successes, according to The Muse was getting “a spiral cement ramp at the Henrietta Harvey Building entrance; ‘key’ elevators for the disabled in several main buildings on campus; a lift inside the front door of the science building; sidewalk ramps around campus.”
MOD-II also played a role in making residence accessible. Through their efforts, an elevator was installed to connect the tunnel system with two floors of Doyle House and gave students with mobility issues access to the Hatcher House dining hall.
Along with MOD-II’s efforts to make the campus physically more accessible, they also helped with academics; for example, they volunteered to read aloud exams to students unable to do so independently.
In 1992, MUN opened a centre for students with disabilities dedicated in memory of Glenn. The Blundon Centre provides test and exam accommodations, assistive learning software, alternate textbook formats, help with mobility, etc.
MUN is leaps and bounds more accessible than decades ago, although much more improvement is needed.
Let us thank Glenn for his dedication to equality in leading the way so that we can continue to fight for a more accessible and caring campus.
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.