The room was mostly quiet, but about 20 students, faculty, and staff from The Claremont Colleges were grinning ear to ear as they each held their fists one atop the other, with the top fist circling above the bottom one. They were following the lead of UCLA Lecturer of American Sign Language (ASL) Benjamin Lewis, who was giving a short ASL lesson (here, teaching the sign for “coffee”) before beginning his presentation, “Understanding the Deaf World.”
Lewis had come to The Claremont Colleges on the invitation of the Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA), a 5C club housed at Scripps. His is the second presentation among a full docket of events and presentations that the club will be hosting throughout the semester.
Manya Singh ’19 and Donnie Denome PZ ’20 are co-presidents of DIDA, which has weekly meetings on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. at the Tranquada Student Services Center. The group was formed by Scripps students in 2012, a time when there wasn’t yet a group on campus devoted to disabled students and disabilities (The Claremont Colleges now has a shared Disability Resource Center).
According to Singh, who leads both institutional advocacy efforts as well as advocacy for students on a case-by-case basis, students may face challenges when they take classes across the 5Cs. “Scripps students are able to access their accommodations such as increased test-taking time, extensions for medical leave, or other academic support while at Scripps, but getting the other colleges to coordinate with Scripps’ Office of Academic Resources and Services [which approves accommodations for Scripps students] is sometimes difficult. It showed the need for centralized advocacy and better communication among the schools,” says Singh.
Singh is an organismal biology major whose passion for advocacy stems from her own experience. “The disability community is the community I identify the most with, having needed to balance school and various health issues,” she explains. “I have a strong sense of self-advocacy and wanted to share that with other people.”
The Disability Speaker Series is supported by several offices on the Scripps College campus, including the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities, the Writing Program, the Student Disability Resource Center, the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, the Office of the Dean of Students, and Scripps Associated Students. Pitzer College’s Academic Support Services (PASS) is also a sponsor.
“I’m incredibly grateful [to these offices] for co-sponsoring the Disability Speaker Series and to Scripps on the whole for adding staff members to the disability department,” says Singh. “People with disabilities tend to have more personalized support at small colleges—I know I do.”
Fall 2018 DIDA Events
These events begin at 4:30 p.m. and take place in Kravis 102 on the CMC campus.
Tuesday, November 6: Hector Ochoa, “Disability Politics”
Wednesday, November 21: Eva Sweeny, “Disability and Sexuality”