We are proposing that Georgetown University create a Disability Cultural Center as part of an institutional commitment to access, equity, diversity, and inclusion. A Disability Cultural Center would serve the community by coordinating educational, academic, social, and support programming for people with disabilities at Georgetown, allies of disabled people, and people interested in understanding more about disability. A Disability Cultural Center’s work, programming, and mission statement would be grounded in the principles of the disability rights movement and the scholarly field of critical disability studies/disability theory.
The Disability Cultural Center would coordinate social programs such as movie/discussion nights, dinners, and other social events for the Georgetown disability community; educational programs such as leadership development training for students with disabilities, access/inclusion training for student and staff employees, and technical assistance training for accessibility; academic programs such as guest lectures, panels, and symposiums on topics of interest in disability rights activism, disability studies, disability cultures, or disability public policy; and supportive programs such as professional networking opportunities for students with disabilities or students interested in disability-related careers, peer mentoring programs facilitated by and for students with disabilities, and interest groups (online or with in-person meetings) for faculty, students, staff, and alumni with disabilities.
Furthermore, the Disability Cultural Center would promote the inclusion of disability studies curriculum, scholarship, research, and teaching throughout the university, both in terms of advocating for the inclusion of individual courses focusing on disability studies as well as the eventual establishment of a certificate program, minor, or major in disability studies. The staff of the Disability Cultural Center would be in a unique position to provide support and guidance for faculty members and graduate student instructors interested in including disability studies perspectives in their courses. The staff would be able to collaborate with both individual faculty and whole academic departments and centers interested in developing a better understanding of topics in disability history, theory, cultures, communities, and public policy. Part of this work would be accomplished through curating a disability studies library housed in the Disability Cultural Center’s office, where students, staff, and faculty could borrow disability-related books and journals in various formats.
In addition, the Disability Cultural Center would work to cultivate disability rights activism and advocacy in partnership with existing and new student organizations and other community partners in the Washington DC Metro Area. For example, the Disability Cultural Center would be able to interface with student organizations such as Diversability, Best Buddies, Active Minds, and GU Signs, as well as any future disability-related student organizations. The staff of the Disability Cultural Center would engage with student organizations through cross-posting and publicizing student programming, funding disability-related events and programs, and providing support and guidance for existing and future disability-related student organizations. The Disability Cultural Center would also be in a unique position to work with other DC-based disability organizations, such as the American University Disability Rights Coalition, the AU Washington College of Law Disability Law Society, the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective, DC Quality Trust, University Legal Services of DC, and Georgetown University’s own Center for Child and Human Development.
As part of the mission to provide opportunities for members of the Georgetown community interested in disability issues, the Disability Cultural Center would also work to facilitate access to research and scholarship on disability in public policy and government, potentially in partnership with faculty and students at the McCourt School of Public Policy, the Georgetown University Law Center, and the Department of Government. Facilitating access to opportunities for involvement with disability-related internships, community service opportunities, and direct actions beyond the gates will also be critical to a successful mission.
Finally, the Disability Cultural Center would serve a crucial role as a resource for disabled students, faculty, and staff, as well as non-disabled allies to people with disabilities and members of the greater Washington community. The Disability Cultural Center would be the central hub for disability-related initiatives at Georgetown, working with and supporting other offices at Georgetown that do disability-related work (including the Academic Resource Center, the Center for Child and Human Development, and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action), student organizations that focus on disability issues, and faculty conducting disability studies related research. Most importantly, the staff of the Disability Cultural Center would encourage intersectional programming, teaching, scholarship, and advocacy with Georgetown’s other diversity centers through co-coordinating events, sharing resources and training, and working toward the common goal of a more accessible, equitable, inclusive, and diverse Georgetown.