Students & Campus
13 February 2023

On Ability

Kevin Jura is a master student in International Affairs specialising in Global Security and Global Health. He and his service dog Bob have made Geneva and the Institute their home for the past two years. 

I have both visible and invisible disabilities, making being at the Institute and in Geneva an interesting challenge. 

I walk with a cane due to the injuries I sustained at work over the years at the hands of several patients. These injuries and the other experiences I have had in my professional life have resulted in my undergoing multiple surgeries and developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

In addition to PTSD, depression, and anxiety, I also have another significant invisible “disAbility” – autism (formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome). My autism also makes social settings very uncomfortable for me. This is partly because I struggle to recognise and understand non-verbal communication and tend to take things literally, and I have difficulty expressing my thoughts clearly and concisely. This makes things like speaking up and participating in discussions in my classes and student organisations difficult. I have learned to be extroverted (to some extent) but I am truly an introvert that does not enjoy speaking in class unless I have something substantive to add to the conversation. 

This is why I have Bob, my certified service dog. He helps me with my visible and invisible disAbilities, assisting me with my mobility and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD). Having invisible disAbilities can be a challenge because I often get questions about why I need Bob. He is a trained service dog, not a therapy dog. 

Although the Institute is not the perfect academic institution for those with visible or invisible disAbilities, it is actively working to change that and become more inclusive. Individuals like Eliane Minassian-Kellermann, the Head of Student Wellbeing & Support, and Dr Laurent Neury, our Academic Advisor, work to help students succeed.

I say this from personal experience, as I could not have succeeded without their support and friendship. In fact, Eliane began assisting me before my arrival here in Geneva. She is the one that helped me find a veterinarian for Bob as well as appropriate healthcare providers for myself. Dr Neury has also provided me with wonderful academic support and advice. 

In addition, the Institute has a DisAbility Task Force comprised of administrators, faculty, staff and students, which I am fortunate to serve on. 

The deliberate capitalisation of the letter “A” in DisAbility is to show that although someone may have a visible or invisible disability, it doesn’t mean that they do not have abilities or are unable to excel in their personal, professional or academic lives.

I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of wonderful people at the Institute, and I am grateful for those opportunities. I would like to invite those that know me or those that I haven’t met yet to please feel free to come up and talk to me about this article, Bob, or my experiences.

I share all of this not to gain sympathy but to exchange my experience and spread awareness for the spectrum of disAbilities, visible and invisible. And to let everyone know that there are resources at the Institute available to you. There is a great team at Student Services, and Eliane and Dr Neury are there to help you in any way they can. Please, if you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact them, they want to help you succeed!