New Club Fosters Community for Disabled Students

Emma Shinker

Chief Copy Editor

 

 

 

Students gathered in Babcock Hall’s formal lounge on the evening of Thursday, March 31 for the very first meeting of the Disability Advocacy and Support Alliance (DASA). The group was officially chartered earlier this semester.

“Being a founding member of DASA feels so exciting to me,” remarked Dana Giffen ’23, acting Vice President. “The need for a group centered around the disability identity was growing stronger and stronger each year.”

Giffen, along with Ryan Seaton-Evans ’23, the group’s acting president, and Caitlin Strassburg ’23, the acting treasurer, formed DASA “so that the campus can become a more inclusive space for people no matter what their abilities are,” Giffen explained. 

Seaton-Evans and Strassburg had the idea for the group separately, and both discussed it with Giffen, who connected them and helped formulate a plan. “The idea for this organization came about from a profound lack of representation for the disabled community at Wooster, coupled with the absence of accessibility measures,” they said. “For many students with disabilities, it can be very isolating, and confidentiality measures often make it feel as though that individual is the only disabled member of the Wooster community; to feel alone in your experience can be a real roadblock to good mental health, which in turn affects the entire college experience.”

Seaton-Evans is the Accessibility Representative on Scot Council and Strassburg has worked to put on a series of “Disabled in STEM” events. They hope that, through DASA, they can continue to increase the visibility of disabled students on campus and create a welcoming community. “I hope that DASA will help provide a safe space for anyone who may need it, as well as a community of people who can support one another,” Giffen elaborated.

The meeting began with introductions and then Seaton-Evans, Giffen and Strassburg set their goals for the organization, which include both community-building and advocacy on campus. To accomplish these goals, the founders plan to host a variety of events, including hosting general meetings, organizing movie nights and coordinating a formal event. They also expressed an interest in working with other identity-based groups on campus to provide more intersectional events.

For the rest of the meeting, students were able to share their hopes and ideas for DASA’s future. Some expressed the need for a space to air grievances, a way to raise awareness about the difficulties of being disabled at Wooster or a group to host more sensory-friendly events.
When asked how they felt about being the founding members of the organization, Giffen, Seaton-Evans and Strassburg all agreed that it was “magical.” They expressed excitement about the success of the first meeting and the role they are playing in breaking down barriers on campus. Ultimately, the founders said that “our biggest hope is that DASA will outlast our tenure at Wooster and continue to grow into a strong presence on campus.”

If you would like to become involved with DASA, meetings are held at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the Babcock formal lounge, and you can follow them on Instagram @dasa.woo. The organization has also compiled support resources which can be found in their linktree: https://linktr.ee/dasa.woo.