By Lucy Altman-Newell
On Thursday, Sept. 18, Claremont University Consortium opened its new Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC). Located in the Robert E. Tranquada Student Services Center, the SDRC is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; hours may be adjusted as additional staff is hired.
Directed by Tammy Green, the SDRC will serve as support for the disability resources on each of the five Claremont Colleges. Scripps, Pitzer, Pomona, Harvey Mudd, and Claremont McKenna Colleges each have their own disability coordinators.
Students who self-identify as having a physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional and/or developmental disability are able to register for accommodations with the coordinator on their home campuses.
With such a low ratio of disability coordinators to students across the five Claremont Colleges who selfidentify as having a disability (more than four hundred students, or approximately six percent; this mirrors the national rate for college students), it has been difficult to fully support all students who request accommodations; the SDRC hopes to change this. After a home campus has exhausted its disability resources, the SDRC will step in to more-fully support the students seeking assistance. For example, because there is not enough room to accommodate the test-taking process for students with disabilities on all of the campuses, the SDRC now provides a space for this. The SDRC also serves as the meeting place for the Disability, Illness and Difference Alliance (DIDA) student group.
In addition to providing testing and study space for students, the SDRC will also host disability awareness trainings and workshops and provide digital and online disability-education resources, as well as pamphlets, brochures and instructional support for faculty. Consultations with parents, staff and faculty regarding the mental health, support and career needs of students with disabilities will also be provided. Green emphasizes that these consultations are not therapy — this may be found at Monsour Counseling Services — is a completely separate entity. Instead, the SDRC focuses on helping students do as well as possible academically with their disabilities. Students may drop in or schedule an appointment by calling the center at 909-607-9331.
Many students have expressed enthusiasm at the unveiling of the Center. In particular, some students who self-identify as having disabilities reported feeling hopeful that having their own space will help to fight the feelings of shame and stigma that are often experienced in regard to disability. Another student expresses hope about the potential of the SDRC, but is concerned that “because the SDRC is helping support colleges in providing academic accommodations, it may not function . . . as much as a space for building community.” She remains hopeful that the SDRC will evolve to serve this purpose as well.
Representatives of the SDRC have spoken about using a combination of the medical and social models of disability. The social model, on which DIDA is based, is a social-justice model of disability. This model, according to the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, sees “disability” as socially constructed — the result of people living with impairments in an environment full of barriers — and implies that society must change to enable people living with disabilities to participate in society on an equal basis. The medical model sees disability as resulting from an individual’s mental or physical limitations, and does not connect the individual to social or geographical environments. The first step, according to this model, is to look for a cure in order to make the individual more “normal.” Students reported feeling curious to see how the SDRC will implement this combination of models.
While the website is still under construction, individuals interested in the SDRC will eventually be able to find more information at www.cuc.claremont.edu/sdrc.