Survey seeks CPP community opinion on proposed Disability Cultural Center

By Yzzy Arias, May 11, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona’s Access and Disability Alliance released a survey in April to gauge the campus community’s opinion on a proposed Disability Cultural Center on campus which would aim to be a destigmatizing safe space for students with disabilities.

Currently, the university’s Disability Resource Center provides accommodations and services to 1,284 students, but there is no center intended for students to socialize, develop leadership skills, plan events, train allies and break stigmas about disabilities. This is what the proposed Disability Cultural Center would seek to bring onto campus.

While the Disability Resource Center provides the legal privileges and entitlements required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Associate Director of Disability Resource Center Ann Loomis confirmed that the resource center is not affiliated with the cultural center proposal.

Zane Landin, a third-year communication student, is the student vice president of the Access and Disability Alliance and student committee chair of the Disability Cultural Center. He is aware that the center would not be assembled during his time at CPP, yet continues to advocate for the center on behalf of future students.

“If you look at the models of the African American Student Center, Pride Center and others, they all kind of encompass similar themes except for serving separate demographics,” said Landin. “The Disability Cultural Center would replicate what other centers are doing.”

In the future, Landin expressed that he would like to see the Disability Cultural Center collaborate with other centers to bridge a gap and promote peoples overlapping identities.

“There is a bigger focus on gender and race, and that’s good, but disability is less prioritized, but if you see disability only as something that needs to be accommodated, that becomes invalidating,” said Landin.

Katherine Kinkopf is an assistant professor of biological anthropology and faculty co-president of the Access and Disability Alliance. She stated that the campus is in need a safe space for students, faculty and staff with disabilities.

“I know a lot of students have a diagnosis or they suspect that they might have a disability, but they don’t want to identify with a disability because it is stigmatized,” said Kinkopf. “The most important thing to me is getting disabled people to feel proud of who they are and inherently value who they are and it is not something that is negative about them.”

As of this report, there is no designated location where the center would be located on campus.

Shayda Kafai, an assistant professor in the Ethnic & Women Studies Department and faculty co-president of the alliance.

“Once we go through that data, our hope is to present all of it to the campus and then they will assign us with a location,” said Kafai. “I would want it in a central and accessible place that doesn’t have a lot of hills to get to so that it is easier to access.”

Additionally, there is no timeline or estimate of how long it will take for the Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers to approve and proceed with the development of the Disability Cultural Center.

“We need to start filling in a gap of a conversation that is not happening on a majority of the campuses, including CPP, which is shifting the conversation on disability to a conversation of disability culture and disability pride,” said Kafai. “Disability culture does exist and conversations moving away from ableism and other systemic oppressions toward a culture of pride is a reality for a lot of disabled folks.”

The survey is ongoing and the committee plans to meet over the summer to analyze the data to make recommendations to the university in late summer or early fall.

Feature image courtesy of Josh Appel.

Edits, May 11, 6:30 p.m.: Shayda Kafai is not involved with the decision process for the location of the proposed center.

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