A new student affinity center designed to support students with disabilities has opened in the Access Center on the Washington State University Pullman campus.
Located in room 223 of the Washington Building, the Disabled Student Center provides a place for students to relax, study, mingle, and conduct meetings.
The center, which opened in late July, is an “amazingly perfect space,” said Matthew Jeffries, director of campus climate and community building in Student Affairs. It includes lounge and study spaces, coffee, and walls sporting a fresh coat of crimson and gray paint.
“What I hope the center will do is create a community where students feel comfortable meeting each other and sharing their challenges, their accomplishments, and support for one another,” Jeffries said.
Second-year psychology major Monroe Amos said the Disabled Student Center will provide a great place for him to interact with others in the disabled student community.
“I’m really excited about the student center,” Amos said. “As a disabled person, it is very important to have a place where we can talk to others with disabilities about our shared experiences and provide support for one another as we navigate our disability and the world around us.”
As a Compass Program mentor, Amos will not only use the space as a student – he’ll also use it in a mentoring capacity as he works to facilitate the successful transition and retention of incoming first-year students. Joining him in the center will be Michael Solomon, an Access Center advisor who will serve half-time as a coordinator in the DSC. The space will also serve as home base for student staff and a disability awareness intern, who conducts educational outreach and helps organize the Disability Symposium.
Jeffries said he is excited to see how staff and students utilize the Disabled Student Center and said it was important to design it with flexibility in mind – both in its physical space and its programs and services.
Even the center’s name can be flexible, Jeffries said, noting that choosing a name was not an easy decision for the disabled student community. Amos said there was support for several other names in the mix, but in the end, “Disabled Student Center” was the right choice.
Strengthening the disabled community
Students with disabilities and allies have been consistent advocates for the creation of a new student center in recent years. After meeting with many of them in January 2023, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Ellen Taylor called for the formation of a working group to explore the feasibility of establishing one. Amos was one of 10 students, faculty, and staff invited to participate.
He and the others in the group concluded that a new center would help connect and strengthen the disabled student community, giving them a stronger sense of belonging at WSU. By transforming vacant office space in the Access Center, a center could be established at minimal cost in a location where many students with disabilities seek services. Because the costs were low, the project moved quickly and the new space was ready to open in just a few months.
“Everyone involved with planning the center worked really hard to make it a safe place for disabled people, both students and faculty, and I’m excited to see where we go with it and what we do,” Amos said.
The Disabled Student Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all students, faculty, and staff are welcome to drop by. A grand opening celebration will take place on Oct. 17, 4-6 p.m.