Professor Teaches Course on Accessibility in Boston

September 23, 2015

Jane Hardin

As part of our new PLAN curriculum, Professor Jane Hardin teaches the Boston Course "Navigating Boston: Accessibility for All"

What's your favorite class to teach?

"Learners with Special Needs" -- but the new Boston Course is a close second!

When I was in college, I...

...majored in education and did my student teaching in Idaho Springs, Colorado. I started out as a general education student and my graduate work brought me into the world of special education. I was a public school educator for 7 years, took time off to raise my family and then returned as a supervisor of interns, then as an instructor in the program of special education at Simmons. 

When I'm not teaching, I... to travel and spend time with family and friends. I am a member of the Millis Lions Club, a board member for the MA Council for Exceptional Children and a mad Pats fan.  

Do you have a hidden talent?

I think my hidden talent is hospitality. I use to run my own party accommodating business and friends say I really know how to run a great party and to make my guests feel comfortable.

I love my students because... 

...they continually challenge me and make me grow. I admire so many of my current and former students and stay in touch with many of them -- and have for years!            

How did you come up with the idea for Navigating Boston: Accessibility for All?

Navigating Boston came to me because as someone in the field of special education, you just become more aware of these things. However, my late mother and my sister have both needed help at different times with their ability to access buildings, etc. It made me angry when it was so difficult for them to be able to go somewhere because of their physical challenges. I think everyone needs to accept that at some point in their life (if they live long enough!) they will need some assistance. My good friend, Linda Stetson, who is the head librarian of the Morse Institute in Natick, MA once told me, "Jane, we are all TABS." I asked her what she meant and she said, "Temporarily Abled Bodied." I have never forgotten that. 

What are the challenges of navigating the city of Boston if you have a disability?

There are many challenges that those with a disability face in navigating a city like Boston. For example, think about the crosswalks. Try timing how much time you actually have to cross the street. Now, imagine someone who uses a wheelchair, walker or white cane trying to cross the same street. This situation puts those in the cross walk in jeopardy. If someone has a significant hearing loss, then they may have a difficult time hearing the bell that is sometimes associated with a cross walk. Many sidewalks are too narrow and thus force wheelchair users to go into the street and this places them in danger. Older buildings in Boston are frequently not handicap accessible and they seem to avoid some of the laws around disability rights due to their status as "historical buildings." These are just a few of the many challenges that exist in getting around the city.

What's the most exciting part of working with PLAN? How does this program benefit students?

The Boston Courses will benefit the students in several ways. These courses will ideally allow students to become familiar with the city and learn not only the geography of the city, but how to use the MBTA. I believe it will help them learn about the rich cultural diversity in many parts of Boston. I also believe a side line of these courses might be that members of each class will get an chance to build there own community within the class as they travel together to explore the city.

What's your Simmons moment?

I have had many Simmons moments over the last 20 years, but I would say that each time I am at Commencement, I am very moved by the experience. When you work with students over a period of a few years, you often get to know about their personal struggles and accomplishments. When they cross that stage, I share their excitement and pride.