The club aims to improve the campus and create a community for disabled and non-neurotyped community members.
The new club offers a community for students with disabilities at Binghamton University.
The Disabled Students’ Union (DSU) was established to raise awareness of disability and provide support to disabled students at BU. In their meetings, which are currently held on Zoom, members inform visitors about the services available to them on campus, discuss the availability of seats on campus, host discussions for people with disabilities, and suggest how the university can improve the campus for students – the disabled. All disabilities are welcome, and non-disabled allies are also encouraged to join and learn from their disabled peers. Members can become part of DSU by joining GroupMe, which is represented by the link tree in their Instagram bio.
Jesse La Scala, DSU founder and sophomore English and environmental studies major, said the inspiration for the club at BU came after seeing a similar organization at UCLA. After collaborating with other students who shared his frustrations and experiences, in the fall of 2022, action began to form the club.
“I was very grateful that there were a lot of people who were as passionate about it as I was,” La Scala said. “Because of our frustrations with the campus and the rejections we have in class and just through our daily experiences.”
La Scala said the DSU had discussed visitors’ experiences of ability and inaccessibility on campus in recent meetings. Ableism is defined as “discrimination against people with disabilities” according to dictionary.com.
The club hopes to obtain a student association charter to more easily increase membership and secure funding, and is in the process of writing its constitution. La Scala shared his goals for DSU’s impact on BU’s disability community.
“My main goal that I want to achieve is more awareness and acceptance of disability in and out of the classroom,” La Scala said. “I want to build a sense of community to know that people are not alone in their struggles and they are validated whether they have a diagnosis or not.”
According to La Scala, students with disabilities must work “10 times harder” than their able-bodied and neurotypical peers. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, neurotypical is defined as “absent from or not associated with brain disease, especially autism, which is often considered to be different from normal.” La Scala expressed the hope that – through the DSU – the disability community can increase recognition of this, achieve their goals more effectively and make professors talk more about disability in their classes and be more accepting.
Cassidy Taylor, a junior majoring in linguistics, explained her reason for joining the club.
“I am passionate about activism and hope to make a lasting difference while I am at this school, but I know I cannot do it alone,” Taylor wrote in an email. “I hope this group will lead to more disability education and sensitivity training on campus to really make BU a safe place for everyone.”
La Scala explained that their meeting attendance was around seven to 10 members, depending on the week, with the number of students growing with each meeting. The group includes only undergraduate students of all majors.
Emma Tanelli, a junior linguistics major, was motivated by her personal experiences to attend DSU.
“I joined DSU because I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), restrictive eating disorder (ARFID) and depression, so I thought joining a group that supports people with different disabilities – visible or invisible – would help me to feel seen and safe. and supported and that I might even find others like me,” Tanelli wrote in an email.