Taishoff Center to Host First Leadership Conference for College Students With Disabilities

The Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education at Syracuse University continues to promote leadership opportunities for students with disabilities with its first national conference, “DisAbled & Proud: A Call to Lead,” to be held Aug. 5-7 on the SU campus. “DisAbled & Proud” is the first conference of its kind in the country to focus on empowering students with disabilities to be leaders of change in college and in their careers, and inspiring students to engage with future generations of disabled peers and network with others.

The conference will begin on Friday, Aug. 5, at 6:30 p.m. in Goldstein Auditorium in the Schine Student Center with a welcoming address from Taishoff Center Executive Director Wendy Harbour. After the opening dinner, Judy Heumann, special adviser for international disability rights at the U.S. Department of State, will give the opening keynote, “Creating Foreseen and Unforeseen Opportunities.” Interested students can sign up for an optional discussion with Heumann focusing on international issues scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 6, at 8 a.m.

Ari Ne’eman, founding president of the Autism Self Advocacy Network, will give his presentation, “Disability and Leadership: Labels, Identity, and Beyond,” at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Following will be three panel discussions featuring student leaders from colleges and universities around the country. Topics are:

  • Creating campus change through the law and politics
  • Creating campus change through community organizing
  • Creating campus change through changing attitudes and the campus climate

Lunch and afternoon breaks will allow participants to network and socialize with each other, and the day will finish with dinner and a spoken word poetry performance from LeDerick Horne, board chair of Project Eye-to-Eye, a national nonprofit that provides mentoring programs for students labeled LD/ADHD.

The closing discussion “Organizing as a Community: Setting a National Agenda” on Sunday, Aug. 7, at 9:30 a.m., will be led by Harbour and Ne’eman and participants will create a national and federal agenda to distribute to policy-makers about disability and higher education. Participants will also discuss the next steps to keep the momentum of change moving forward for disabled students.

Registration for “DisAbled & Proud” is free for all students who want to attend. Students with any kind of disability are encouraged to come, including students with learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities and intellectual disabilities, as well as blind and visually impaired students and deaf students. Those who have not already registered by phone, online or mail can do so onsite each day of the conference before activities begin. All onsite registration and activities will be held in the Goldstein Auditorium of the Schine Student Center on the SU campus.

Planning for “DisAbled & Proud” began in 2010 with a group of young leaders from across the nation who met in Syracuse to plan a conference that would engage disabled students and others to think critically about leadership opportunities in disability and social change, and how these factors interact within the world of post-secondary education. Students and faculty from SU facilitated the planning meetings and the group created an outline for the conference.