For every disabled student who has struggled to navigate campus, Georgetown students are in the initial stages of establishing one of the country’s first Disability Cultural Centers.
“As a whole we live on one of the most inaccessible campuses ever,” said Lydia Brown (COL ’15), an autistic student who is spearheading the project.
About 20 members of the university community attended an event on Wednesday night that Brown organized, at which they began the process of assembling a planning committee that will write a proposal and lobby support for the center.
“This is in the very beginning stages,” Brown said, adding that the Center will require funding, office space and a full-time faculty director and will likely take a few years to get off the ground. “It will be the foundational branch of the university for addressing disability and it will directly collaborate with student organizations and centers specific to disability and diversity in general,” she said.
The proposed center will serve as an administrative office similar to the LGBTQ Resource Center. The center will promote equal access, provide a safe space for conversation and encourage activism. Additionally, the center will offer social activities, a mentorship program and community service projects.
“It’s very different from a disability support services office. Their primary goal is to facilitate and provide support services. … The idea behind establishing a Disability Cultural Center is to not just talk about disability in the medical sense,” Brown said.
While groups like DiversAbility, Best Buddies and Active Minds address the needs of disabled students on campus, Georgetown’s disabled community lacks a unified center, Brown said.
Renleigh Bartlett (COL ’15), who struggled with getting around campus on crutches because of a sprained ankle, rated Georgetown a six out of ten on its accessibility.
“Getting around campus [when I was on crutches] was ridiculous,” Bartlett said. “Not every building has ramps or pressure-sensitive doors.”
Bartlett added that students on campus do not always respect their disabled peers.
“A lot of ableist language goes on,” she said. “There’s a lot of dismissal on campus. I think there needs to be less hesitation on open discourse.”
Ally Collin Segura (COL ’15) echoed Bartlett’s statement.
“There’s a lot of ignorance surrounding the neurodiversity community, and I think Georgetown could do more to help,” he said. “This is a social justice issue.”