Albion College is home to over 70 campus organizations and may be gaining one more in the next year. Eryn Star, a first-year from Essex, Connecticut, is working towards creating a group called Diversability. So far, the organization is only recognized as an interest group as they work to go through the approval process.
“We chose Diversability as the name of our group because we believe that it emphasizes intersectionality,” said Star by email. “Disabled people tend to not get included by other minority groups in their fights for equality and justice, which causes disabled people of color, disabled queer people and more to feel left behind. In media, the most common depiction of a disabled person is a white, cisgender and straight man, and that does not reflect the diversity of the community. So, diversability is a term to describe how disability intertwines with other identities, how their oppressions are interconnected, and brings unity.”
Star also made sure to clarify that Diversability is being used to be more inclusive, not to further stigmatize the word disability — considering fighting stigmas is a part of the group’s main goal.
“Diversability is not being used as a substitute for disability,” said Star. “On the contrary, I believe that we need to say the word disability aloud and often. One of the reasons why many people avoid using the word disability and replace it with other words is because it comes from the societal view that disability is inherently wrong and too embarrassing to discuss, which has perpetuated further stigma.”
World Health Organization defines what disability means by saying, “Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.”
Star first came up with the idea to create a disability rights group last March when researching colleges.
“When I was looking at colleges, I could only find a few that had disability rights groups and most of them were not liberal arts colleges. With Albion, I really fell in love with it because I felt valued, so I see so much potential for it to become an accepting, inclusive environment for disabled students,” said Star.
For her, creating Diversability has personal motivations as well.
“For a long time, I felt pressure to be “normal” and never tell anyone about my disability, which caused a lot of self-loathing. Embracing and being open about my identity as an autistic person has been a difficult and beautiful journey that I am still going through to this day. I learned how to accept my identity through the internet, and no one should have to go through that. While the internet can be great, we deserve to experience acceptance and validation of our identities in person surrounded by a supportive community.”
According to the Assistant Dean for Program Development, Tracey Howard, the process to becoming an Albion College approved school organization takes three steps. The first part is registering with Campus Programs and Organizations, submitting a roster as well as a constitution and by-laws. Howard will work with the group to make sure the by-laws and constitution’s language reach CPOs’ expectations. From there he will either recommend the organization or not. No matter his recommendation, the group will then move on to step two where their organization is presented to Student Senate and they will either approve or not approve the group. Once again, no matter senate’s decision, the group will then, hopefully, be approved by Sally Walker, Vice President of Student Affairs. While her decision certainly takes into account Howard and Student Senate’s approval, her approval is the final decision.
If this organization is approved, Star hopes it can create a supportive community for disabled students and their allies, and start campus conversations about how to discuss disabilities and accessibility issues on campus. Events could range from inviting speakers to campus to having more informal activities such as movies to promote self-care.
Meetings are Tuesdays at 8:15 p.m. at the Umbrella House. Those interested in the organization can contact Eryn Star at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Eryn Star