UC Berkeley opened its Disability Cultural Community Center, or DCC, on Tuesday in the Hearst Field Annex, becoming one of the first college campuses to create a center dedicated solely to the disabled community.
The 2100-square-foot center offers a space for the disabled community on campus where people can connect with counselors, resources, programming and peers, according to an article from UC Berkeley. The DCC is unique from existing services on campus because the DCC emphasizes community rather than legal compliance, noted Karen Nakamura, campus professor of anthropology and chair of disability studies.
“The DCC is the result of an effort by disabled students for at least the past five years to create a space where disabled students could get together and celebrate disability culture, disability diversity that wasn’t the DSP or Tang or any other medical environment or sort of stigmatized place,” Nakamura said.
The opening of the center followed years of town hall gatherings, meetings and campus protests aimed to keep campus accountable for the lack of community it offered to students with disabilities, according to Alena Morales, a co-founder of the Disabled Student Leaders Coalition, which advocated for the DCC’s creation.
Katie Savin, a co-founder of the Disabled Student Leaders Coalition, noted that student-led activism on disability issues dates back to the 1960s, with the Rolling Quads, a group of quadriplegic activists on campus.
“This is really about the cultural identity aspects of disability because it’s not just an impairment or a medical situation,” Morales said. “It’s also an identity because society’s disabling us.”
The DCC aims to have students bond over shared experiences in a place where they do not have to hide their identity or disabilities as they would in a discriminatory environment, Morales noted.
Savin noted that students with disabilities wanted a place that would free them of the isolation often brought by difficulty in finding community.
“Students are at the core of UC Berkeley, and every student has the right to feel like they belong to this community,” Nakamura said. “The diversity of Cal is also what makes us really beautiful, but it can also be very isolating.”
Nakamura and Morales expressed the feelings of empowerment that come with the DCC and the freedom of self-expression it offers. Morales said being proud and owning her disabled identity in the disabled community led her to explore her queer and racial identities as well.
The DCC will also offer career counseling and other resources to better prepare disabled students for academic success and life after college, Nakamura said.
“The ultimate goal is to represent disability to the UC Berkeley community and beyond as a facet of human diversity that is celebrated and has a lot to contribute and offer and doesn’t simply exist as a liability and an issue of legal compliance,” Savin said.