Mentorship Community for Stanford Students With Disabilities

Feb. 10, 2011, 12:16 a.m.

New — and, I would argue, long overdue — efforts are in progress for students with disabilities on campus. The ASSU Disabilities and Accessible Education Committee (DAE) picked up steam during the fall, and earlier this quarter announced the initiation of a new mentorship program targeted at students with mental, learning, and physical disabilities. Add in the increasingly visible profile of the Office of Accessible Education (OAE), and things are looking bright indeed for accessibility and inclusion at Stanford.

As someone who is registered with the OAE, these efforts, particularly the mentorship program, make me breathe a small sigh of relief. Although Stanford has proven itself to be fully committed to meeting the academic and logistical needs of its students with disabilities through providing accommodations, in my experience the University has not yet succeeded in considering the social challenges that those individuals sometimes face. There is no community on campus that is fully aware of and committed to the needs of students with disabilities — and, since Stanford is a place that embraces (or professes to embrace) community for students from all backgrounds, this strikes me as a serious flaw. Over the course of my time on campus, I’ve witnessed countless initiatives, mass emails, and activities targeting individuals from minority or “diverse” cultural backgrounds. Yet I have found no such community for students with physical or mental limitations. Rather, students with disabilities seem to be expected to compensate as best as they can.

The best thing about this mentorship program is that it’s not limited to individuals with disabilities — it’s not a commiseration group, nor is it intended to be. Rather, it’s open to all students who are curious about issues of disability and who are interested in advocating for their friends. From my experience, living with a disability becomes a drastically smaller deal if one can find a community of open, perceptive, and sensitive individuals with whom to interact. Here’s hoping that this recent DAE initiative, through establishing a safe community for students with disabilities on campus, can make steps toward accomplishing exactly that.

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