Students and administrators are collaborating on an implementation committee for the pilot initiative. The committee is tasked with identifying a physical space, hiring part-time staff members and addressing other logistical concerns leading up to the launch of the pilot space in the fall. Members include students — ASSU Director of Communications Cricket Bidleman ’21 M.A. ’22, Tilly Griffiths ’22 and second-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Cat Sanchez ’19 — and administrators, including Associate Vice Provost Emelyn dela Peña. Establishing a permanent community center should be a University priority, advocates on the committee said.
According to Bidleman, 19% of students on campus are registered with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Bidleman said it is concerning that there is no space for students with disabilities to find “a fulfilling community experience,” despite the fact that they represent nearly one-fifth of the student population. This debate is not new: Advocates have been calling for a University-sponsored on-campus disability center since the 1990s.
History of on-campus advocacy for a disability community center To address this issue, the ASSU launched the Abilities Hub for the Disability Community (A-Hub) initiative in October 2017 to foster “engagement of the disability community on campus.”
ASSU President Vianna Vo ’21 added that recent advocacy surrounding Antonio Milane ’25 and his fight for a scribe further highlighted the need for a disability community space. She said several students face similar issues, and a disability community space could help remove the burden from individual students to advocate on their own by providing an environment where they can seek resources and support from community members. She said a community center would provide a space to discuss experiences with others and consolidate resources.
In response, students created an interim disability center last winter. Sanchez said that the interim center highlighted the need for a formal community space with staff members because managing a robust community space solely with student volunteers was not feasible and placed an unfair burden on students with disabilities. The A-Hub was developed as a “temporary space working towards a long-term solution: an established community center with a full-time director.” According to advocates, the original A-Hub initiative failed to meet the needs of students with disabilities due to difficulties with scheduling meetings in a shared space and lack of administrative support.
While the pilot was initially intended to last one year, limitations imposed by virtual learning led to a pause until it was feasible to launch a physical space. The implementation committee is on track to start staffing the disability community space, initiate programming and handle logistics in spring, Sanchez said. Students presented an official proposal for a permanent disability community center in May and received a response from the Student Resources Committee in August stating that the University would not provide a community center designation at that time, but that it was willing to initiate an A-Hub pilot program. The pilot initiative is not an extension of the previous A-Hub program and student advocates are currently working on developing a different name. Moving forward
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