Interactions with your peers can reinforce your classroom learning, help you persist to graduation, and make your college experience more satisfying (Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P. T. 2005. How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco). A group of students working together to advocate for increased accessibility on campus can also be more effective than a student advocating alone. Unions or clubs provide places for students with disabilities to gather and discuss campus or national events, join together in community, and participate in educational activities.
Here are some steps to consider if you wish to start an organization on your campus:
- For ideas to build from you might want to contact existing clubs or unions for students with disabilities such as:
- Contact your campus disability service office for help in contacting other students. Because of confidentiality rules, staff in this office may not be able to give you contact names, but might be willing to send out an email message or postal mailing on your behalf.
- Plan an initial meeting for interested students with disabilities and advocates to get to know each other and share suggestions for the group.
- Post signs around campus and messages on appropriate websites and discussion forums inviting students with disabilities and advocates to attend the meeting or contact you if they are interested in joining the group, but cannot attend the meeting.
- Set an agenda for the meeting. After introductions, ask attendees if they want the group to be social, educational, political, advocacy-oriented or all of these things. Consider inviting advocates among your faculty and staff to help you move forward. Make plans for organizing the group and set an agenda and time for the next meeting.
- Plan activities for your organization. If you’re interested in increasing awareness of diversity, you might host panel discussions of students with disabilities, plan rallies on campus, technology fairs, or open mic nights. If you’re planning social events, consider organizing potlucks, game nights, or other activities that appeal to members. Advocacy-oriented activities might help students learn about accessibility and accommodations, practice self-advocacy skills, or write letters to the school administration or elected officials.