Syracuse University continues to be a national leader in higher education as it will open the doors to a Disability Cultural Center in the fall of 2011. This groundbreaking center will be the only one of its kind across the nation that is operated by permanent staff members.
The Disability Cultural Center will function as an umbrella organization under which social, cultural and educational programming related to disability and disability culture will take place.
“The University has a long-standing commitment to making an SU education accessible to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities, and as part of that, the Division of Student Affairs must ensure equal access to resources and services that impact students’ campus experience,” says Thomas Wolfe, senior vice president and dean of student affairs. “This center is an example of our commitment, and it is with great joy that we welcome its arrival in the fall.”
The initiative to create a University-wide Disability Cultural Center began after the Chancellor’s Task Force on Disability recommended the establishment of a center in its 2007 report to the chancellor. Supported by the Division of Student Affairs and the Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies, graduate assistant Liat Ben-Moshe came on board as the coordinator of the initiative throughout the 2010-2011 academic year.
Ben-Moshe led the charge in identifying the need, use and vision for the center. She began the initiative by creating a diverse advisory board, and then worked with focus groups composed of undergraduate and graduate students, including members of the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee (BCCC). The momentum for the center grew and expanded to include a variety of University stakeholders, who then formally approved the recommendation for a center on campus.
“This year’s efforts were the result of the advocacy of many stakeholders on campus, including students, staff, faculty and members of the Chancellor’s Disability Task Force, as well as not-for-profit organizations and alumni, who all collaborated on the vision of the emerging Disability Cultural Center,” says Ben-Moshe. “Such collaborations embody the path we want to create for the center as it becomes a national trendsetter in relation to disability culture and inclusion in higher education.”
The Disability Cultural Center exemplifies the University’s commitment to Scholarship in Action, as it will function as a model of inclusion that serves the SU campus community and the community at-large as a resource and programming center.
The mission of the Disability Cultural Center is to create a community that fosters pride in one’s identity and to create a culture of inclusion. It will serve and engage faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and others in support of this mission by:
- coordinating campuswide social, educational and cultural activities on disability issues;
- providing training sessions about disability as culture and identity, including workshops on universal instructional design, accessibility and inclusion;
- developing and providing space for various disability groups to meet;
- providing support and peer mentoring, as well as empowerment and (self) advocacy opportunities for persons with disabilities and allies;
- serving as a meeting place for students, faculty, staff and community members who want to be affiliated with the center (self-advocacy groups, people who identify as autistic or family members of students with various disabilities), facilitating the goals of outreach and recruitment at SU;
- serving as a resource center for information on readings, media, periodicals, websites, services, advocacy groups and other international organizations that focus on disability issues;
- promoting disability art, inclusive recreational services and adaptive athletics; and
- working collaboratively with other campus organizations, offices and national disability centers.
The Disability Cultural Center will be a partner to other existing programs, groups and departments across campus, including the BCCC; the Office of Disability Services; Students United for Visual Access Today; the Disability Law Society; Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education; the Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies; the Disability Law and Policy Program; the Burton Blatt Institute; the ACCESS and OnCampus programs; and the Institute on Communication and Inclusion.
A national search for the director position is underway, and the University is in the process of identifying the center’s initial location on campus.