Meet Bridget Arrow Baker, Wellesley’s New Director of Accessibility and Disability Resources
Bridget Arrow Baker is the new director of Accessibility and Disability Resources at Wellesley. She brings to the department 15 years of experience working in a variety of hospitals and colleges in disability services and language pathology. We asked Baker about her new role, her passion for what she does, and her first impressions of Wellesley.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose Wellesley?
When I read the job description, it was really about building an entire department. They weren’t hiring just the director of accessibility and disability, but also the assistant director. To me, that means there’s something fresh going on. And I loved the idea of working in an all-women’s school. That particularly appealed to me when I thought about working in higher education and shaping future generations. Also, I’m a Native American Indian, and when I look out and I see the lake, I think about my ancestors being there. It’s a connection of the role of the director of disability, but it's also the setting that appealed to me.
What are your main goals as you begin your role with Accessibility and Disability Resources?
As an Indigenous woman, I like to think about things in seven generations. I think about the generations that were previous to me, and I think about the seven generations that will move forward. We must consider how each decision and the goals we make will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. The goals of Accessibility and Disability Resources should be made with great intention and understanding how those plans will impact students at Wellesley in the next seven generations. I’m thinking about the legacy of all the staff and faculty that worked here and how we can honor them and honor tradition. But then I also think about how our students can bring us forward to new generations. What that means to me is looking at disability and accessibility as civil rights. I think that in this generation, we’re thinking a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion. But interestingly, disability is rarely mentioned in that conversation. I hope the assistant director and I can bring that into the narrative of what we do, and inspire future generations of students here at Wellesley to think, “How can I work for the civil rights movement for disability? What kinds of technology could I come up with that would help others? What does ‘equaling the playing field’ mean?” When you look at what we do, it’s a lot more than meeting with a student and quietly handing over a letter of accommodation. It’s so much bigger, and there’s room to inspire.
What made you passionate about working in disability and accessibility?
My family—the Foxtree family, the Arrow family—has worked a lot in Massachusetts for education and civil rights, particularly for Native American Indians. I have a background in speech, language pathology, and school education, psychology, and counseling. And so it’s the perfect intersection of all my interests. My godmother did an internship with Jane Goodall, and later on worked in California with Koko, a gorilla who did sign language. She did a lot of studies on communication. As a kid, I was always fascinated by American Sign Language because of Koko. And then I learned sign language in elementary school, and [that] sparked an interest in speech-language pathology, and how people acquire language, and then special education. It’s just these different interests that were a building block of how individuals with hearing loss … acquire language and how they acquire equal access to their education. And I felt I knew which direction I wanted to go. I wanted to work with people who were in need of advocacy, and in need of a voice to give agency to their need. But I also love educating as well.
Do you have a favorite part of campus so far?
There are so many beautiful spots, but I think I love that swing that’s in front of the church. It’s this perfect intersection of history where you have the backdrop of the beautiful trees and the chapel in the background, but then the kind of whimsy of a swing, just to kind of take time and enjoy the present moment. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is when I drive onto campus, and sometimes I see families walking through the campus, and see little ones sitting on that swing. But on move-in day, I saw a student sitting on that swing. And first it looked as though they were just kind of taking everything in, and then suddenly gently swaying back and forth. My heart just felt full for that student. I love that they’re taking that moment for themselves. So I think that’s my favorite spot.