*Diversity pervades the Georgetown student body in many ways, whether through age, gender, national origin, race or sexual orientation. Diversity through disability, however, has been in the background until recently. Tiffany Yu (MSB ’10), along with several other students, seeks to raise awareness of disability through a newly created group called Diversability. Through this group, which is still awaiting recognition from the Student Activities Commission, students will be supplied with a vehicle through which to begin a conversation about disability on campus. The Hoya spoke with Tiffany to learn more about the proposed group.*

**How did you come up with the idea to begin a group that fosters diversity in such a unique way?**

During [Resident Assistant] training this year, we were talking about the seven identities of diversity, and that includes age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, et cetera, and I was just thinking about how on campus there are an abundance of student groups that represent each facet of diversity – except for disability. Disability is something that has played a large role in my life. I just thought it was important to create a group at Georgetown that brings together students with disabilities and their allies to raise disability awareness on campus [to] just have a conversation.

**Why do you think this idea has never been proposed before?**

People who have disabilities, whether they are invisible or visible, especially if they’re invisible, don’t feel comfortable disclosing [them] because of the negative connotations that come with having a disability. On the other hand, people who don’t have a disability feel uncomfortable talking about it, because they don’t want to seem like they’re ignorant or insensitive.

**How did the Accessing Difference Conference help the group get started?**

In October, I participated on a student panel at the Accessing Difference Conference.  I introduced the idea of creating this group.  The group would not be a support group but rather a supportive group; students who simply wanted to raise awareness – there was no need for anyone to feel pressured to disclose.  Given the fact that disability is still a very sensitive topic, I didn’t think that something like this would be possible.  The conference gave me the encouragement I needed to get this off the ground.  I definitely could not have done this by myself, and I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received from my peers and the Georgetown community.

**Do you think that there is an interest from the student body to join Diversability?**

I definitely think there is, because disability affects all demographics. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your sexual orientation is or where you come from. It can either affect you directly, whether you have a [permanent] disability, or even a temporary disability like breaking your foot and having to get around campus on crutches, or it can affect you indirectly – say your sister has cerebral palsy or has a learning disability. So people have encountered disabilities before and are interested in getting involved.

**What are some of the main goals you have for this group?**

We have two goals. The first goal is to raise disability awareness on campus and the second is to reshape conceptions of disability. And I think eventually I’d love to make [the concept of] disability an integrated part of what it means to be diverse at Georgetown.

**Do you have any specific ideas for reaching out in the community and educating the student body about the challenges and opportunities for those with disabilities?**

I think the best way is just giving people an avenue to start a conversation.

**Since it may take a while for this group to be recognized by the SAC and receive funding, do you plan on doing anything in the interim to further your ideas?**

We applied for a Reimagine Georgetown grant in October, and luckily enough the committee believed in our idea, so we have a little bit of seed money to get ourselves off the ground. The thing is, a group like this can wait until we go through the entire SAC process, but I think something needs to be done now. We have a working group put together filled with faculty members, staff members, and other students who just really care about our cause, and knowing we have that base now makes this the perfect time to keep this momentum going.

**What are some of the events you will be planning to jumpstart this group?**

Right now, we’re just working on getting interested students involved. Our working group has met twice this semester and we’re open to any student who wants to get involved.  At this point, we just want students to know that this group does exist.  We are going to be meeting again in January to map out the next couple of months, but we are anticipating a February date for our launch event.

**What are some obstacles students with disabilities face at Georgetown?**

I definitely can’t speak for the entire community here.  From my own experience, I was often afraid that I would not be accepted among my peers because I had a disability.  What was important for me, though, was relaying the message to my peers that it was OK.  I didn’t want to be a pity case.

**What are some of the ways Georgetown can become more accommodating to students with disabilities?**

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the person who can answer this question adequately.  This isn’t something that can happen overnight or even in a semester.  But we can definitely take steps toward making Georgetown a more inclusive campus with a group like Diversability dedicated to educating the student body about disability.  The creation of a group is meant to relay a message that disability is an important part of this university. I also think disability etiquette is really important and just understanding that disability does exist at Georgetown. “

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