Campus Emily Henderson March 15, 2021

Disability visibility on campus


March is Disability Awareness month. Alma College hasn’t always offered a plethora of information on disability awareness, but this year may be different.

This semester the Center for Student Opportunity has created a reading club for faculty and students. The material concerns disability visibility.

The subject matter for this group was Disability Visibility written by Alice Wong, and it’s a collection of short stories by those with disabilities about their lives.

“We talked about how this book brings light to the lives and narratives of people with disabilities written specifically by people with disabilities,” said Julia Dang, a graduate assistant for the office of diversity and inclusion.

This book was chosen for a myriad of reasons. One reason is that Alice Wong, the author of the highlighted book, will be speaking at the Women’s History and Disability Awareness Month Keynote that will be happening on March 25th.

Not only is March Disability Awareness month, but it is also Women’s History month. The CSO is hoping to celebrate and highlight these together at the end of this month.

This book was also chosen because it offers a closer look into the life of more than one disabled individual.

Throughout history disability visibility has been lacking in all societies, but those with disabilities and their allies are hoping to change this narrative.

“Disability visibility is having those experiences recognized and validated and to have their voices and concerns heard rather than doing what our society is known to do, which is push away the topic of disability and accessibility because it’s difficult,” said Dang.

Disability visibility is important more than just one month out of the year, and is something that has not received a lot of attention through media or other outlets, and when it does it may be from the perspective of a non-disabled individual.

“Oftentimes, we are told about disabilities by medical practitioners or even by media, and it’s really not their story to tell, so we thought it would be really beneficial for our campus to hear about what they have to say about their own community,” said Dang.

Many feel that the only way to know about the oppression that minority groups face is to hear their story from them, without the presence of the majority’s opinion obstructing the truth.

This club has more than one motive. Not only do they want students and faculty to learn about the struggles that those with disabilities face in their lifetime, but they are also hoping to spark a change among those on campus.

“I wanted us to be disturbed about the lack of accessibility that is around us so that we can be fired up to make a change to be more inclusive,” said Dang.

The Center for Student Opportunity doesn’t plan on stopping here. As momentum gains within our academic community, they hope to see more students join them in future meetings discussing other books regarding this topic.

“This was our first book club; however, based on the engagement and success, I’d love to host another one of these in the future,” said Dang.

The CSO is hoping to hold another reading club in the future, and are open to student suggestions on the material that is covered regarding the lives of those with disabilities.

While nothing has currently been planned regarding the next book that will be highlighted in this group, those who partook have a good feeling about the direction the campus is headed in regards to disability visibility.

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