On Feb. 21, The Herald reported that a collective of Brown students and activists had proposed to University administrators the creation of a student-led disability identity and cultural center. The proposed center — which aims to fill a void in campus life and establish a robust sense of community for students with disabilities — will feature study rooms free of distractions, accessible group meeting rooms and open hours for peer mental health advocates. According to student activists, University administrators have responded positively to the proposal, though logistical details and a timeline for the center’s establishment have yet to be cemented. We wholeheartedly support the students and organizations behind the push for a disability identity center, and hope that the proposal engenders constructive conversations about the experience and well-being of students with disabilities at Brown.
While official resources — like Student and Employee Accessibility Services and Counseling and Psychological Services — do exist to accommodate students’ needs, there is a notable dearth of student-driven community programming on campus for students with disabilities. “There’s a sense of not belonging, this feeling of ‘I’m not getting the support I need,’” Matthew Flathers ’19 told The Herald. “A lot of people feel really isolated on campus.” A disability identity center — initiated, managed and sustained by students — would go a long way toward curtailing the sense of isolation experienced by students with disabilities and developing the peer support structure available to them.
Further, a disability identity center is a natural extension of the University’s recent efforts to address student concerns about accessibility. In keeping with the objectives laid out in its Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, the University — along with individual academic and administrative departments, which have created their own DIAPs — has taken significant steps to enhance the accessibility of its physical and technological infrastructure. These steps — which include the ongoing renovation of Wilson Hall and the creation of a digital arm of the Campus Access Advisory Committee — would benefit tremendously from a grassroots, student-driven center that effectively channels student input and addresses student needs.
The proposed disability identity center is, ultimately, a fitting culmination of years of student activism around issues of inclusivity. And, while the proposed disability identity center is still in the ideation stage, we value the opportunity to think deeply about Brown’s commitment to accessibility, the needs of our fellow students and the ways in which the University can more fully actualize its values. After all, students of all marginalized identities should be able to access the resources and support they need in a space they can call their own. We look forward to seeing plans for and discussions about the proposed disability identity center mature and develop further.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Anuj Krishnamurthy ’19, Mili Mitra ’18, Rhaime Kim ’ 20 and Grace Layer ’20. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and op-eds to email@example.com.