Alexander Novoa | The Poly Post

Access and Disability Alliance hosts ableism workshop

By Victoria Mejicanos, March 21, 2023

Cal Poly Pomona’s Access and Disability Alliance hosted an ableism workshop in the Maker Studio March 13 to discuss ableism and how it impacts people with disabilities, using zines to do so in a creative and inexpensive way.

Ethnic and women’s studies Assistant Professor, Shayda Kafai, the president of the alliance, explained what zines are— handmade magazines— and why students had an interest in creating them. There were many specific goals in mind for Kafai as to what attendees were to gain from the experience of creating zines, including examining the impacts of ableism, and fostering disability culture on campus.

The aDa is a disability justice led organization made up of students, staff and faculty whose goal is to promote awareness, sensitivity and a cultural identity of those with disabilities.

According to Kafai, a zine is a small inexpensive handmade magazine created with the intention to be mass produced and shared with others that has its roots in activism.

“It usually is created with an activist spirit of sharing information in the most equitable, inexpensive way possible,” said Kafai.

Kafai elaborated on the utility of the zines being easier to produce and therefore easier to share with others.

“So instead of buying a book, if you can’t afford to buy a book, you can get this photocopied zine that has resources and has stories that you can use as reference.”

Alexander Novoa | The Poly Post

“The first thing is really understanding how we can undo the impacts of ableism, specifically academic ableism,” said Kafai. “I want people to leave with the realization and the knowledge and the awareness that they too are meaning makers. If we have a third hope and wish it would be to create, even if it’s temporary, a space of disability culture and pride, where we can come together as disabled folks and allies”

Gender ethnicity and multicultural studies student Vex Aubreii, defined ableism from a personal perspective.

“It’s this idea that disabled people are not allowed to be comfortable,” said Aubreii. “If you’re disabled then you have to ask for accommodations, you have to fight for accommodation and you have to just be uncomfortable all the time because the norm is able bodied.”

Each zine was unique, with different themes such as self-love, neurodivergent relationships and self-advocacy.  There were even zines with no coherent theme, which was also encouraged. The lack of structure allowed students to be as creative as they wished.

Panda Rodriguez, an electromechanical systems engineering technology student, shared it was their first time attending an even hosted by the aDa and it was a welcome change.

“It’s interesting because I’m able to express something I’ve been festering,” said Rodriquez. “It allows expression, and it’s a nice way to have a little bit of introspection. I think people are often too concerned with getting through the day and getting things done.”

Aubreii also expressed that the event is important to students because it provides exposure to disabled people on campus, especially people students would not normally expect.

“You wouldn’t assume that most of us here are disabled in some way,” Aubreii said. “Or most people don’t think that their professors or faculty members have any kind of disability, but the fact of the matter is that many professors do, they just don’t disclose it.”

The event also allowed attendees to reflect on disability culture and what it means to them.

Yesenia Ramirez, the coordinator for interpreters on campus for the Disability Resource Center, shared that recently people with disabilities have taken power in the ability to identify themselves however they feel comfortable.

“Disability and the definition of it has morphed and changed so much, everyone is able to label themselves in the way they think fits them best now,” said Ramirez.

Examples of zines can be found by students at both the Womxn’s Resource Center and the Pride Center. The Access and Disability Alliance will host two more meetings before the end of the semester and welcomes students to join them.

Feature image by Alexander Novoa

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