The Academic Resource Center and the Office of the Provost are sponsoring the university’s first Disability Cultural Month throughout October and through Nov. 13, which features events, panel discussions and a performance that will focus on disability and diversity awareness.

Lydia Brown (COL ’15), who was on the month’s planning committee, said that she hopes the month will encourage the student body to think differently about disability.

“What we hope to do through the events of Disability Cultural Month is not only to highlight the diverse experiences of disabled people, even within that category of disability, but also to highlight how it is incumbent upon us, intellectually, socially and even ethically, to shift the way we think about disabilities.” Brown said. “We need to shift from this pathological context that disability means something wrong with you to be fixed medically or psychiatrically, to the context of diversity and social justice in keeping with the values of our Jesuit university.”

Chris DeLorenzo (GRD ’17), another student on Disability Cultural Month’s planning committee, expressed the importance of bringing disability to the forefront of campus discussion.

“The broader question that we are trying to address with this month, is simply putting disability on the radar screen,” DeLorenzo said. “Putting it on the radar screen as a diversity issue, rather than a medical problem that should be dealt with as little as possible and out of sight of everyone else.”

Many of this month’s events will address ableism, or prejudice against disabled people.

“Ableism is basically the system of pressure that values certain kinds of bodies and minds over other kinds of bodies and minds,” Brown said. “And in particular, those that are considered not desirable or not valuable bodies and minds are the one that we consider disabled. So our lives are considered less worth living. Our existences are considered burdensome in some societies. … Ableism underpins everything.”

Holahan said that the month aims to educate a wider group of students about disability’s place in conversations about diversity.

“What we are really trying to do is that we are trying to look at opportunities to educate the general community,” Holahan said. “We are trying to look at things that will be really important for students to gain lessons or insights of what it means to have disabilities, of what it means to request accommodations, of what it means to have equal access to programs and facilities.”

Brown said that events that address disability often attract fewer students than events related to other cultural groups.

“For a lot of people, it takes seeing something else in the title or description of the event or hearing about it from someone who they already have a relationship with to consider ‘maybe I should go to that,’” Brown said. “Because, for most people, if it’s just about disability, it doesn’t strike a chord in them that I might want to attend that.”

According to DeLorenzo, the student committee tried to address this problem by connecting disability events to other popular groups such as the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Black House, Leaders in Education about Diversity, Black Student Alliance and Center for Social Justice.

The month will also feature a performance of “Broken Bodies, PBP: Police Brutality Profiling,” a spoken-word and hip-hop performance by Krip-Hop Nation, a project that features musicians with disabilities. This performance, as well as other talks that are a part of of Lecture and Performance Series on Disability Justice, focuses on the intersectionality of disability issues.

According to Holahan, about 20 students attended the month’s first event about student-run nonprofits.

“Could there be more? Absolutely. But … if only one person shows up,” Holahan said, “that one person was passionate about learning about disability issues.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Office of the President is not funding Disability Cultural Month. The Office of the President is providing both funding and promotional support for Disability Cultural Month.

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