When ASU sophomore Pilar Ribera learned there was no club for students with disabilities on the Downtown Phoenix campus, she knew she had to do something.
So she started Devils for Access and Inclusion, a new club that is pushing for a community outside of academics.
Ribera, a community health major and Disability Resource Center employee, is the president of the new club. She has been working alongside the DRC to find officers to help her plan informational events and run the new club.
Walk with Austin is the first event the club has planned and it is open to all. The event will feature the club’s guide dog, Austin, and will allow students to learn the role of service and guide dogs.
Walk with Austin will be held at Taylor Mall in Downtown Phoenix on February 18, 20, and 22.
“I saw that Tempe had a club for students with disabilities, but Downtown did not. I started researching how to become involved and create a new club,” Ribera says. “I wanted to start a community for students with disabilities outside of school and the DRC.”
The DRC currently acts as a service center for any qualified students that need assistance. Services range from on-campus transportation to note-taking accommodations. The Disability Resource Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus is located on the second floor of the post office at 522 N. Central Avenue.
The club hopes to start a conversation by informing all students on how to become an ally to the disabled.
Becoming an ally starts with being informed. Students can be an ally by volunteering at the DRC, treating students with disabilities like they would treat any student, or by taking notes for the DRC.
Rachel Fisher, the club’s vice president, addresses why it is so important for ASU to recognize the disabled.
“Unfortunately, disability is the elephant in the room. Nobody knows how to deal with it and nobody wants to acknowledge it,” she says. “There is a lack of understanding and compassion because you cannot have compassion without understanding the situation first. Therefore, I think education is so important and is the first thing our club is going to focus on.”
The club plans to connect students who feel isolated because of their disabilities. Fisher, who uses a cane and is visually impaired, says “a disability can make one feel like they’ve lost power.” Devils for Access and Inclusion hopes it will inspire others to act and make ASU the most diverse community it can be.
Cassandra Muenchen, Devils for Access and Inclusion’s secretary, is working on the club’s weekly newspaper, which shares news about club events, scholarships and more.
“I think this club is important for both disabled and non-disabled students, as they can work together and form a community,” Muenchen says. “The connection will help ASU become a more aware and well-rounded community that is kind to everyone no matter their background or challenges.”
The university can start incorporating diversity in its classes by making it a required topic of discussion in ASU 101, a course that all freshmen are required to complete.
This will be one of the many things the club plans to advocate for once they are settled in on campus. Working with the DRC and administration on informing all ASU students on disability is one of the club’s biggest priorities.
“Incorporating disability and diversity in ASU 101 would inform freshmen on inclusivity, disabilities and how to become comfortable around all people,” Muenchen says. “When someone is in a wheelchair or with a guide dog on campus, many students do not know how to act and this needs to be fixed.”
The first step in becoming an ally to students with disabilities is treating them as you would any other student. Simply having a conversation with a student with a guide dog about their pet can make the biggest difference in their day.
“In a year, I hope to be a part of this club and see it grow. I would love to see another officer step into my role and direct the club in the best direction,” Ribera says. “It would be great to see our club along with other disability clubs on other campuses connect and make ASU the most diverse it can be.”
Devil’s for Access and Inclusion will start bi-weekly meetings in Spring 2019 and will be posting more information on its Facebook page. To join or for more information, contact Pilar Ribera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words by Lauren Hernandez.