The Student Disability Resources Center (SDRC), located in Tranquada Student Services Center, opened its doors to the Claremont community in September to provide a centralized resource center to support students with disabilities across the 7C campuses. Now, halfway through the semester, the SDRC is celebrating its first few months of service to the 7C community and recognizing Disability Awareness Month.
The SDRC has hosted two video screenings in observance of Disability Awareness Month. The first screening took place Oct. 20 and featured a film that explored the lives of students with learning disabilities. The second, held Oct. 28, showed The Race Inside My Head, which focused on the experiences of college students with ADHD.
Aside from the events, the SDRC website featured daily disability awareness trivia, all of which were also available for students to answer in the center itself. Many trivia questions pertained to famous artists and activists with disabilities.
SDRC Director Tammy Green and her administrative assistant Mary Hall are currently the SDRC’s only two employees. Since the center is new, the SDRC is primarily working on cultivating awareness and communicating its purpose to students.
“The SDRC exists to support campuses in providing disability services because heretofore there was no organized or clearly defined place for students to identify as disabled,” Green said.
As Green sees it, Disability Awareness Month has a twofold purpose: to raise awareness about the new center and to educate on how the concept of disability is treated in the American education system.
“Students with disabilities too often get overlooked, and this month is supposed to put the idea of disability on your mind,” Green said.
Since the SDRC is so new to the 7Cs, there wasn’t enough time to put together a full-scale production of Disability Awareness Month, according to Green. Right now, she is focused on meeting the needs of students from across the 5Cs as opposed to hosting community events. Next year, she says that there will be a more extensive program for the October awareness month.
Since the center functions as a regular quiet place for students to study, relax, snack and hang out, coordinating large-scale events can be difficult. However, the SDRC is still able to function as a regular meeting place. The student-run five-campus Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA) meets at the center on Wednesday nights. This week, the alliance held a meeting with the management team from Scripps College’s Motley Coffeehouse to make the space more accessible and disability-friendly.
“I want to see comprehensive institutional and cultural change surrounding the concept of disability at the 5Cs,” DIDA co-coordinator Eden Amital SC ’17 said. Amital, as one of the alliance’s co-runners, works to create safe spaces for disabled students and push for change at the 5Cs.
Julia Easly, Assistant Director of Student Administration at Claremont McKenna College, is in charge of CMC’s Disability Support Services. While she works to find, advocate for, and offer accommodations to CMC students with disabilities, that is not her only job, and the story is the same for each of the five campuses.
Easly hopes that the SDRC will be a valuable resource in navigating options and researching the best ways to provide for disabled students. However, for CMC, structural changes to campus are also necessary to support disabled students: For instance, there is no push-button outside of Collins Dining Hall.
Amital said that there is a lack of support for disabled students on a nation-wide level.
“As the American education system is now, school is not a place structured for students to be safe and be able to heal in; it’s a place where you either need to be able-bodied or you have to deal with your disability or leave,” Amital said.
While there is much room for the 5Cs to improve disability resources, the colleges have made significant progress in different years. In her three years at Scripps, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Academic Resources at Scripps College, Sonia De La Torre-Iniguez has seen constructive improvements in the way students view disabilities.
“In the short time that I have been here I have witnessed changes in the culture from thinking about the use of more inclusive language, to providing educational workshops for the community, visibility around ally training, and overall greater sensitivity and awareness,” De La Torre-Iniguez wrote in an email to TSL. “I am pleased with the amount of attention that this topic is getting because it has been the impetus for change is [sic] the right direction toward creating a more accessible community and having that be a part of the everyday versus the exception.”
As the SDRC continues its development, the ultimate goal moving forward is for the center to enlarge and increase its presence on campus. Green wants to employ more students, as well as an employee who is exclusively responsible for working hands-on with students with disabilities. Programming about disability awareness and support at the start of each first-year orientation in August is also a priority.
Most importantly, the center hopes to serve the community as a resource to increase education and serve the needs of students, staff and faculty across the 7Cs.
“I envision the SDRC as a great partner in advancing our efforts to create a more accessible, inclusive community by providing support to students, staff and faculty,” De La Torre-Iniguez wrote. “For me that translates to greater access to resources, technologies and education.”