In order to fully foster community, a group needs to have a space to gather.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Architectural and Planning Research explores the association between public spaces and a sense of community. It claims “the translation between public space and building a sense of community is defined as ‘the sense of belongingness, fellowship,’ ‘we-ness,’ identity, etc. experienced in the context of a (geographically based) collective.’”
The same principle applies to student communities, especially underrepresented ones.
Services for Students with Disabilities does not have such a space. SSD offers many services, including housing and placement accommodations and representations on various committees in the University. They should expand their services to include a physical space for students who are registered with them.
Harper Lay, an advertising freshman who is registered with SSD, believes she would benefit from a physical space.
“I think a physical space would be beneficial in meeting new people who are also registered with SSD,” Lay said. “I don’t know a ton of people who are, and I would like to change that.”
In order to fully serve its students, SSD should designate a space in the Student Services Building for this purpose.
Emily Shryock, assistant director of Services for Students with Disabilities, explains the purpose of SSD.
“SSD is seen as a compliance office,” Shryock said. “We want to serve our students in the best way possible, so every initiative we start is because students requested it — we definitely see students requesting more opportunities to connect with each other.”
The best way to fulfill that request, considering the value of physical gathering places, is to offer a space where students can get together in a casual setting and meet each other.
A physical space would not be a great cost to the University, as rooms don’t necessarily have to be redesignated. There is already space in the Student Services Building, which houses the SSD office, and that designated space should be used to its full potential.
Shryock said they’re in the process of exploring new options to support disability as part of students’ identity and campus diversity.
Diverse identities are best promoted by those who live with these identities. If we want to support disability, normalize it and create a strong community for students with disabilities, let’s take the first step by providing a physical space that fosters discussions around these topics.
Dronamraju is a public health freshman from Dallas.