The Claremont Colleges are combining resources to open a centralized Student Disability Resources Center (SDRC). The new center, scheduled to open in fall 2014, will augment the services and resources currently available on each of the campuses and will be located in the Robert E. Tranquada Student Services Center. The search for the SDRC Director is already underway.
Approximately six percent or more than 400 students at the Claremont Colleges have self-identified as having a disability, which mirrors the rate nationally for college students. The percentage is the same at Pomona College, where approximately 90 students have self-identified as having a physical, cognitive, psychological or a learning disability, reported Jan Collins-Eaglin, associate dean of students for student support and learning.
"The SRDC will enhance our ability to support our students, reach out much more proactively and to have better, more consistent programs and policies in place before a student arrives on campus. It will also improve our ability to keep up to date in the disability support field," she noted.
The primary responsibilities of the SRDC Director will include supporting the assessments and accommodations provided by students' home campuses; advocating for and providing social and cultural support for students with disabilities; establishing cross-campus disability accommodation procedures, an inventory of shared resources and a disability resource website; and creating centralized, distraction-free and reduced distraction spaces for test proctoring and other accommodations. The Director will also serve as an advisor for the Disability, Illness and Difference Alliance (DIDA) student group; and consult with faculty, staff, parents, and other stakeholders about the developmental, career, support and mental health needs of students with disabilities.
DIDA member Nicole Ross '14, a philosophy major, believes that the SDRC will significantly change the Claremont Colleges experience in a positive way. "The SRDC will provide a safe space to be disabled without fear of judgment or ableism [and] provide the resources to explore disability as an identity and a culture…. The SDRC has the potential to help disabled Pomona students feel more at home and supported here [and] to help create a flourishing disability community. For all students, the SDRC has the potential to spark and lead important discussions on campus around disability as well as adding an important perspective to ongoing dialogues around privilege, social justice, and intersectionality that are already taking place on campus."
Maddy Ruvolo SC '14, an American studies major, is president of DIDA and a member of the SRDC Director search committee. "I'm excited that disabled students will finally have a physical space on campus we can claim as our own," she says. "I hope the SDRC will run programs that strengthen disability culture on campus and increase awareness of the disability experience for all students."
"Having conversations with other disabled folks has helped me get rid of the shame and stigma I associated with my disability, and has inspired me to advocate for myself and others," says Ruvolo. "It's been a long process to get to this point, though, and if there had been a SDRC when I arrived on campus, a space to promote such discussions and personal growth, I would have felt much less isolated as a first-year student."
For Ross, the approval of the SDRC has already started to change her perspective of the Pomona experience. "The greatest impact so far is the message the creation and funding of the SDRC sends – that disabled students are here and play important roles in the Claremont community. It sends the message that disabled students and their experiences with disability are not just accommodated at the Claremonts but also respected and deeply valued."