The premise is simple: I am trying to create a student group on campus that is dedicated to raising disability awareness and reshaping the University s conceptions of what it means to have a disability. The group will bring together students with disabilities and their allies to foster and encourage dialogue throughout campus on disability. This group will address the need for horizontal support—support from peers—on campus. The group is not so much a support group but rather a “disability pride” group. Ideally, we are reimagining Georgetown to be a more inclusive campus.
The idea for this grew out of the realization that there are an abundance of student groups that address various aspects of diversity including gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity—but there were no student groups that directly address ability. Best Buddies, the organization that creates one to one friendships between college students and members of the community with intellectual disabilities, was the closest organization that came close to brushing the topic. Diversity exists at Georgetown, and disability is an integral part of that.
How can we make this campus more accommodating for students with disabilities? I think it is important that Georgetown students begin to think more consciously about disability from use of the word “retard” in casual conversation to kicking in the blue plates to open doors to the point where they are not usable for students in wheelchairs.
Eventually, this group, which we’ve called diversABILITY, will become a SAC organization recognized by the University. Unfortunately, that process will only begin to take off the ground near the end of next semester and only after we become a SAC organization will it be easier to have access to funding to support our programming But something needs to be done now.
The creation of a Disability Studies Certificate and the Accessing Difference Conference provided the momentum we needed to get this off the ground. We want to keep this momentum growing—we have the support we need from students, faculty, and staff, but we don’t have the funds necessary to really make an impact.
The group will officially be launched in early spring. The grant will be used to fund our launch—we have a lot of ideas for how we want to kickoff this group, including inviting a high profile speaker in the arena or sponsoring a “day in a wheelchair” event. The remaining funds will go toward raising further awareness, either through T-shirts or other promotional materials.
Originally published on November 17, 2009 on Vox Populi