Bi-Co students are leading efforts towards the creation of a Disability Studies program, with a petition that has already acquired over 270 signatures.
Bryn Mawr student Sophie Greer ’23, in collaboration with Disability Advocacy for Students at Haverford (DASH), Mawrtyrs for Access, and Neurodiversity Affinity and Awareness Group, created the petition to promote the development of a Disability Studies minor and the expansion of the Disability Studies curriculum across the Tri-College Consortium.
The curriculum would highlight the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities and place their perspectives at the forefront of study. Courses could range across a wide set of disciplines at Haverford and Bryn Mawr, from STEM-related subjects like health studies, neuroscience, and psychology, to subjects in the humanities such as sociology, anthropology, political science, English literature, and peace, justice, and human rights. The current Bi-Co courses in this field have been highly popular, such as “Critical Disability Studies” taught by Professor Kristin Lindgren, who leads Haverford’s Writing Center.
“Currently, people say that disability studies is a part of health studies, but it’s a lot more interdisciplinary than that,” said Greer.
The survey section of the petition demonstrates a large student interest in the development of this minor. Of the students who completed the petition’s survey section, 95% said they would be excited to see more disabilities studies courses or a disability studies minor in the Tri-Co. Additionally, 81% would consider minoring in Disability Studies if they could.
Students hope that this minor will make the Tri-Co’s curriculum more reflective of their experiences. Its creation would be empowering for disabled students who might not feel that their experiences are represented in the classes currently offered at Haverford and Bryn Mawr.
“It would be helpful for both disabled students to see themselves represented in the curriculum and […] for non-disabled students to learn more about what it’s like to have a disability,” said Greer.
Above: Selected quotes from the Disability Studies petition
This petition follows Greer’s letter to the provosts of the Tri-Co schools earlier this semester advocating for more disability-related courses. After noticing the lack of American Sign Language courses available for Bryn Mawr and Haverford students, Greer wanted to contact the administration about creating more sign language classes. From there, she broadened this idea to push for Disability Studies courses as a whole. Disability Advocacy for Haverford Students was in favor of this proposition and wanted to advocate for the creation of a Disability Studies minor as well. Together with DASH, Greer worked to make a petition that would demonstrate the student support and interest for this academic program.
“I’ve been circulating it ever since then… putting up posters, posting on Facebook groups, pushing it to emailing lists,” said Greer. “It really generated a lot of student support.”
After obtaining a substantial amount of signatures and gaining the support of faculty members across the colleges, the students will approach the curriculum committees of the three colleges. If the program is approved by all three committees, they will start the process of developing the structure of the minor. The strong support of this program so far shows that Haverford and Bryn Mawr students are excited about the idea of more disability-focused courses and eager to explore this underrepresented field.