A frequently asked question is why the word “Disability” is included in our office title. The DAI Team reflected deeply upon our name, ultimately, deciding to retain “disability” for a number of factors, though two stand out. First, that many individuals view disability as a central component of their identity, and find affirmation through their collective or respective disability communities. Removing the word “disability” from our title could be interpreted as negating an essential element of disability identity. Individual and communal experiences navigating ableism and barriers to access are what compromise equity, inclusion, and progress through systematic change.
Second, that federal laws which establish individuals with disabilities as a protected class with civil rights, all contain “disability” as a term of identification. These laws intersect with post-secondary, and post-baccalaureate education because students continue to experience barriers to access in those environments. The work of DAI extends far beyond students with physical or learning disabilities and course access. For example, our fastest growing population at present are students with mental health diagnoses. The programming and support we provide continues to evolve both proactively and responsively, based on these evolving needs.
The DAI team knows that individuals with disabilities are an essential component of the diverse community that makes up URI. We consider our work to reduce the stigma of the word “disability” a key aspect of our role on campus, acknowledging and elevating the myriad talented and unique students who have, and continue to identify with our office.