Should I Start a Campus Group for Disabled Students?

Jan 07, 2019

Jo asks, quote:

I’m going into my second year of tertiary study this year as a disabled student and I’m considering starting a group or community to connect with other disabled students. Crucially, I think it would be cool to have something run by disabled students, rather than by the university. Do you think this kind of thing would be welcomed by the other disabled students on campus?

end quote.

If the group you want to form is going to meet on campus and use university resources, it will most likely need to be approved by by the university. However, the group could still be student lead and organized.

You mentioned that this group is for disabled students, but “disabled” is a really broad term that covers a wide variety of conditions and situations. Is this group aimed at people with physical disabilities? Chronic illnesses? Mental illness? It’s totally fine to want to include any and everyone that falls under the “disabled” banner, but you should keep in mind how this will change the group dynamics.

The social and support needs between these groups of people varies wildly, and the makeup of the group over time is going to change how beneficial it is for those involved.

For example, if I was considering joining a community group for disabled people, but I later found out that the group was made up mostly of people dealing with chronic illness, I would reconsider my choices. I don’t have a chronic illness and often struggle to relate socially with those that do. The same thing goes for wheelchair users versus non‐wheelchair users, anxiety vs depression, etc.,

Again, I’m not saying that including all disability types in your group is bad, I’m saying that it can make more difficult for a disabled person to decide whether or not your group will benefit them socially. The way that disability affects how someone feels within a peer group is messy and complicated. I would take the time to decide what you personally would want to get out of a campus group for disabled students and work your way out from there.

The other thing you should consider is the purpose of your group. Your group doesn’t necessarily need to have a political or activist goal to be valid. It is totally okay to start this group because you want to spend time with people who look, move, and feel the same way you do about being a student. Still, it’s something you need to have clear vision of.

No matter what you decide, I’m sure your group will be a welcome addition to campus life.