Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Disability Access and Belonging Month: an opportunity to learn

Samantha Ratner

In the past, the month of October has been for celebrating both National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Texas Persons with Disabilities History and Awareness Month. While these observances are celebrated independently nationwide, UT groups both events together into the University-wide Disability Access and Belonging Month.  

This year, UT’s efforts to create a more accessible and welcoming environment for students with disabilities led to the opening of the Diversity Cultural Center (DCC). Spirit groups should take advantage of the DCC’s promoted events to spread awareness of the month’s educational goals.

“We talk about it as a hub for disability, community, education and advocacy,” said Emily Shryock, director of the Disability Cultural Center.

The DCC is promoting October as Disability Access and Belonging Month — UT’s yearly celebration of disabilities. This new name better focuses on access and belonging for members of the UT community with disabilities. 

“What does it look like to make sure that our student organizations are accessible and our workplaces are accessible and our classrooms are accessible?” Shryock said. “One of the reasons that the Disability Cultural Center was established is because disabled students were saying we don’t have that sense of belonging.”

Renaming October to Disability Access and Belonging Month deserves more attention because it spreads awareness about an important topic that may otherwise be overlooked. The DCC implemented an easily accessible calendar to publicize these events. To further promote October celebrations and reach a larger audience, spirit groups should also attend the month’s events.

Spirit groups do a lot on campus to promote awareness internally. For example, some make attendance for certain events mandatory or part of the group statement. They even host guest speakers to discuss important subjects related to inclusivity.

“We have several events throughout the semester, and we’re required to go to two,” said Ashley Diaz, a theater and dance and radio-television-film senior and the president of the Texas Sweethearts. “The first line in our mission statement is the Texas Sweethearts are a diverse group of young women and non-binary individuals.”

While spirit organizations are already taking initiative, they could refocus their existing efforts on Disability Access and Belonging Month. 

“(Bringing access) through a spirit group is such an effective way of getting that done just because there are so many, and a lot of these students are involved in spirit groups,” said Riya Gantla, a health and society and public health senior and the diversity, equity and inclusion co-chair of the Texas Lonestars

Even if they just create awareness and educate members about the month and its meaning, spirit organizations can easily spread the news. 

“We will kind of advertise different events that are going on so that people can go to them,” said Kulsum Ali, a biology junior and the diversity and inclusion director for the Texas Bluebonnets. “A lot of times they will go just because it’s an easy way for them to just get out there and be more involved on campus and community.”  

Some spirit organizations may find it best to just ensure that members know about events to learn more on the topic.

“I think that it’s definitely something that we could take on because it’s about bringing awareness to the fact that they exist,” Gantla said. 

The DCC’s calendar is an important resource spirit groups should take advantage of, as it specifies different activities students can attend to participate in Disability Access and Belonging Month. By highlighting the importance of October, spirit groups can connect with and uplift students with disabilities. 

Rail is an English sophomore from El Paso, Texas.

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