“I’m a graduating senior and I identify as an ally to disabled students on campus. I served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for diversity issues on campus. In this role, I saw firsthand that the university has a very long way to go to provide a welcoming campus for disabled students. Other historically marginalized groups such as people of color, women, and LGBT students have resource centers that are dedicated to improving their lives on campus. There is no such center for disabled students. Because there are no dedicated staff to educate students on disability as an issue of diversity, students have no chance to confront the ableist ideas that many are raised with. More importantly, disabled students have less visible resources that promote disability culture rather than resources that provide only accommodations. The University NEEDS to hire staff in this area, which should lead to a DCC.
“The university also needs to provide funding for student organizations to host accessible events immediately. At present, student groups have no knowledge and no funding surrounding how to host accessible events for their classmates. When disabled students reasonably require accommodations to attend, student organizations are left in a bind. In a horrific situation, they could be forced to discriminate against a fellow classmate due to lack of resources. This is wrong. The status quo does not promote our goal of “Cura Personalis.” The University needs to make it exceptionally clear to club leaders how they should create accessible events as well as provide a funding source for these accommodations immediately.”
Alyssa Peterson (COL 2014) is studying Government and Women and Gender Studies. She is an active member of GUSA, College Democrats, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, and the founder of the Georgetown Student Tenant Association. She hopes to become a civil rights attorney.
Image: A young white woman with shoulder length blondish hair, holding a piece of notebook paper with the handwritten message, “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”
PhD Candidate, Department of History
“Disabled people are not the only group to exist on the margins of the Georgetown community. But unlike women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, we have no community of our own on campus, and we lack an institutional affirmation that we are a valid part of human diversity. This state of affairs is wholly inconsistent with Georgetown’s commitment to cura personalis, and it has very real consequences for our experiences as students, educators, employees, and alumni. It needs to change. A Disability Cultural Center, founded and operated by and for disabled people, would catalyze that change in a way that no other initiative can. It is my hope that by the time I finish my degree, the disabled students I teach will have at least one safe and empowering space on campus.”
Chris DeLorenzo is a proudly autistic Ph.D student and teaching assistant in the History Department at Georgetown University. His research focuses on social movements in twentieth-century Bolivia.
Image: A young white man with slightly wavy brown hair, a mustache, and a goatee, wearing a light collared shirt and dark vest, holding a handwritten sign that says Disability Justice for Georgetown. Behind him is the Bolivian national flag, and the multicolor checkered one behind his head is a Bolivian indigenous flag known as a Wiphala.
“Georgetown University serves as a cultural “melting pot” of faiths, cultures, sexualities, genders, races, and abilities – it is why I chose to come here. The addition of the DCC is critical to maintain this accepting and welcoming environment.”
Allyn Rosenberger (NHS 2017) is pursuing a degree in Health Care Management and Policy.
Image: A young white woman with shoulder length blonde hair, holding a handwritten sign that says “Disability Justice for Georgetown!” while smiling inside a room with hardwood floors, bookcases, and a white door.
“Having a Disability Cultural Center (DCC) on campus is a really concrete way of letting students, faculty, staff, employees (and alums) learn about their own disabilities and those of others. For too long, disability has been something to hide and avoid. Georgetown can step proudly into the 21st Century and shine a light on important issues by creating and supporting the DCC.”
Michael Allen is a partner in the civil rights firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, where his practice is principally focused on housing discrimination on the basis of disability, race and national origin. His recent litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act focuses on remediation of inaccessible rental housing and the right of people with disabilities to live in housing of their choice in the community.
Image: Middle-aged white man with beard and glasses, light brown hair, wearing a dark suit, holding a typed sign that says “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”
Natalia M. Rivera-Morales
Master of Arts in Latin American Studies, 2013
“I support the creation of a Disability Cultural Center because disabled students and scholars constitute a significant and legitimate part of diversity. Despite our undeniable presence in Georgetown, we are invariably underrepresented in all facets of university culture. Ableism—discrimination against disabled people—is a quotidian reality for disabled members of the Georgetown community. I believe it is our duty as disabled students, faculty, and alumni to belie the pervasive notion of disability as a misfortune. A Disability Cultural Center would generate an inclusive university culture that promotes effective self-advocacy and fosters empowered disabled identities.”
Natalia M. Rivera-Morales is originally from Bayamón, Puerto Rico and has resided in the U.S. mainland since the age of seven. She is a proud self-advocate who is committed to ameliorating the representation of women and minorities within the cross-disability community. Her interests comprise feminist philosophy, critical disability theory, Latin American intellectual thought and literature, and Cuban gastronomy. Natalia is the Leadership Programs Coordinator for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Image: Natalia, a young Latina woman with shoulder-length wavy dark brown hair, wearing a horizontally thin striped shirt, is sitting in a large white woven porch chair while holding a printed sign that says, “Disability Justice for Georgetown! DISABLED AND PROUD!” with the word “proud” underlined. Above this is the old logo for the American Association of People with Disabilities, which has four tiles in a square, clockwise from top left, a person in a wheelchair, a head with the brain colored in, a person walking with a cane for the blind, and two hands giving the sign for ASL.
“I support a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown University because it is essential to the full, equal, and safe participation of disabled people at Georgetown and to raise awareness and sensitivity of the rights and needs of disabled people on campus. Furthermore, considering the widespread ableism globally, such a center has the potential to do wonderful work towards disability justice.”
Image: Young white person with dark brown hair, wearing light orange blouse, holding handwritten sign that says “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”
“Similar to the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law, which was formed as the result of law students’ commitment to human rights, a center specifically focused on promoting a culture of awareness of people’s abilities will institutionalize Georgetown’s support of disability rights. Recognizing the needs of all of its students,faculty, staff, and neighbors is crucial to developing the most inclusive community possible, a goal that Georgetown has and should put as a leading priority. The first step to understanding and encouraging responsible action is raising awareness; this center will undoubtedly assist in providing a forum to do just that. As a community, we must realize and appreciate that it is the similarity in our differences that binds us together and the diversity of our differences that makes us beautiful.”
Caitlin Cocilova (LAW 2015) is Co-President of Georgetown Human Rights Action-Amnesty International and Board Member of the Equal Justice Foundation. She is a Public Interest Fellow and currently law clerk at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Caitlin is also Staff Editor of the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.
Image: A young brown-skinned woman with shoulder length tightly curled dark brown hair, wearing a brown top, smiling inside a hallway as she holds a large sign with colorful hand-drawn letters that say, “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”
Mike Meaney, SFS 2012
Greg Laverriere, COL 2012
“I support a disability justice center because I believe the strength of Georgetown’s character is defined by the diversity of people and ideas that enliven its campus. Georgetown University is a place that is committed to the cura personalis of every student so that they can fully become men and women for others. We must ensure that the appropriate resources are available to every Hoya so that this commitment can be fulfilled. The Disability Cultural Center would help Georgetown fulfill its mission and its commitment to equity, access, diversity, and inclusion.”
Mike Meaney (SFS 2012) was President of the Georgetown University Students Association (GUSA) from 2011-2012.
“I support a Disability Justice Center because it would help ensure that every student, professor, administrator, and alumni feels welcome at Georgetown University. Georgetown is a University that is committed to fostering a culture that welcomes every individual across the spectrum, and a Disability Justice Center would help Georgetown ensure that the appropriate resources are available to every Hoya that needs them.”
Greg Laverriere (COL 2012) was Vice President of the Georgetown University Students Association (GUSA) from 2011-2012.
Images: Two photographs. The first, of Mike Meaney, shows a young white man with very short medium brown hair, wearing a navy blue dress shirt and subtly patterned tie, standing in a kitchen with a oak wood floor and white furnishings as he holds a small handwritten sign that says, “Disability Justice for Georgetown!” The second, of Greg Laverriere, also shows a young white man with very short slightly darker brown hair, wearing a black t-shirt with white text that says “HOYA SAXA” and jeans, standing inside an apartment with hardwood floors and neatly painted white doors and walls, as he holds a lined notepad with a red binding and the handwritten message, “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”
“There have been many meaningful and significant efforts over the history of Georgetown University to center disability as diversity, including the creation of the student group Diversability several years ago and its subsequent expansion, the forum for dialogue and performance of the same name in 2011, and the occasional disability studies course offerings, as well as three panel/speaker events that I have personally organized on a variety of disability-related issues. But the administration has yet to affirm an institutional commitment to acknowledging, supporting, and celebrating the disabled members of the Georgetown community. The LGBTQ Center, CMEA, and Women’s Center all exist—certainly, each has been subject to underfunding and understaffing from the administration as well as important criticism from members of the communities that the centers serve and represent. But we have also witnessed repeated criticisms from students with disabilities for over a decade, evidencing that change has been slow at best and noncommittal, superficial, and temporary at worst. This combined with numerous conversations I have had with other disabled members of the community about the culture of shame and stigma surrounding disability only underscore the need for a Disability Cultural Center on campus to unite the disparate voices of disabled students and offer people with disabilities on this campus a starting point for solidarity and support. Right now, only three universities in the world have disability cultural centers. Georgetown has so many opportunities to pioneer meaningful access, inclusion, and equity for people with disabilities, and yet has repeatedly failed. And now, the administration is in the perfect position to take proactive, substantial, and long-term action to correct its record and pioneer the future.”
Lydia Brown (COL 2015) is an autistic disability rights activist, writer, and public speaker. She has experience in legislative advocacy, disability public policy, and grassroots organizing for disability justice. Lydia is serving a second term as GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs in the diversity cabinet. She also co-coordinates the new Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective.
Image: A young Asian person with short black hair and glasses, wearing a t-shirt with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network logo, a blue/purple plaid button-down shirt, and jeans, sitting in an internet cafe against a window, holding a handwritten sign that says “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”
“Disability justice is essential to our campus community. It’s about equality for all Hoyas regardless of ability, class, gender, race/ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation.”
Citlalli Alvarez (COL 2015) is a student at Georgetown University studying Government and Anthropology. She is interested in government as it relates to individuals and communities around the country. She is currently working with DC Jobs with Justice, an non-profit committed to advancing working peoples’ rights in the District of Columbia. Citlalli is also the President of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, and a peer educator with Leaders in Education About Diversity (LEAD) and the YLEAD pre-orientation program.
Image: Young Latina woman with dark brown, wavy hair about shoulder length, wearing a casual lime green top with black-outlined hems. She is standing inside Sellinger Lounge, smiling as she holds a sign that says in regular black handwriting, “Disability Justice for Georgetown!”