Increasing Access, Diversity, and Inclusion
Equal access, meaningful diversity, and full inclusion for all students should be a priority at Georgetown. While different students, student organizations, and administrative offices have made important strides in improving access and inclusion for people with disabilities at Georgetown, there is a long road ahead of us. The creation of a Disability Cultural Center would make a strong statement in support of full inclusion of people with disabilities at Georgetown through recognizing the importance of disability as a form of diversity that is often omitted from discussions about diversity.
Maximizing Our Central Location
Washington D.C. is the home of numerous national disability rights nonprofits, international disability rights NGO’s, disability rights law firms, disability studies scholars, and disability rights activists, as well as the center of the American Deaf community with the world’s only university for the deaf and hard of hearing within D.C.’s city limits. Georgetown has the opportunity to continue to be a pioneer in higher education by creating a Disability Cultural Center in a city deeply connected to the disability community.
Changing Our Campus Culture
There is a long history of barriers to access for people with disabilities at Georgetown that has been well-documented in various campus publications for over a decade. Systematic prejudice against disabled people creates attitudes that prevent full access and inclusion for people with disabilities. Among other identified concerns, numerous students have reported difficulties in accessing disability-related academic accommodations, ASL interpretation for public programs and events, and social isolation from peers. The presence of a Disability Cultural Center on campus would be an important step in changing campus culture on disability.
Closing the Gap for Our Community
At Georgetown, we proudly host several student groups that focus on different aspects of disability–Diversability, GU Signs, Best Buddies, and Active Minds–in addition to Washington D.C.’s designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, which is housed at the Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development. As required by law, we also house disability support services staff in the Academic Resource Center, in addition to designating Rosemary Kilkenny the Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Equity. Unfortunately, Georgetown does not have a single, central office focusing on disability as diversity. The Academic Resource Center cannot serve as that office, because the scope of its mission and activities rest upon the need and importance of maintaining confidentiality of student information for students with disabilities who receive support through this office. Further compounding the problem is the lack of A Disability Cultural Center would fill a central gap in supporting the disability community on campus.
Reflecting Our Jesuit Values
Georgetown University has repeatedly stated a firm commitment to diversity, social justice, serving others, and educating the whole person–these values are part of our Jesuit tradition. Establishing a Disability Cultural Center will demonstrate this commitment by recognizing the need for institutional affirmation of disabled members of the university community and placing us on par with other communities that have recognized diversity-focused centers.