UW students are revolutionizing nation-wide diversity efforts with the new D Center, which is scheduled to open in Mary Gates Hall this winter.
The center will serve as a cultural hub for “people of all minds, bodies, and identities,” said Lee Lyubov, D Center operations and financial coordinator.
Only the second center of its kind on university campuses across the United States, the D Center is the result of two years of work by student activists. Ann Luetzow, who served as the director of the ASUW Student Disability Commission last year, led the movement. Luetzow, who graduated last spring, said the space was modeled after other diversity centers on campus.
“We wanted to make a space that would be comparable to the Q Center, the Women’s Center, and the Ethnic Cultural Center,” she said.
The center will consist of a few offices and a small room. Luetzow said she looked at Syracuse University’s Disability Cultural Center for inspiration, as it’s the only other funded university disability cultural center in the United States.
“The movement for disability cultural centers is just getting started,” Luetzow said. “So it’s extremely exciting that the UW is at the forefront of this new trend.”
Jennifer Gibbons, director of diversity efforts for the ASUW, said she is excited for the center to open, as she feels it will add to diversity efforts across all areas of campus.
“It’s just a really important thing to have on campus because we have a lot of community centers based on a lot of different identities,” Gibbons said. “It just creates this hub for events, programming, and community.”
She hopes the D Center will follow the lead of the other diversity centers in working on projects to benefit the disability community.
“A lot of the work on gender-neutral housing and gender-neutral bathrooms has come out of the Q Center because there’s a space there for activism,” Gibbons said. “Having a space where people can meet and discuss these issues will be great for this community.”
Lyubov, who is a Disabilities Studies major and has worked with advocacy groups such as the Alliance of People with disAbilities, hopes the center will tackle issues such as campus accessibility.
“From what I’ve heard, the campus is pretty inaccessible in a lot of ways,” Lyubov said. “Not just physically inaccessible, but in terms of other accessibility such as sensory accessibility. And though there is some support around this, there was a need for a space where students can convene with peers and where there are formal accommodations.”
But the push to open the center is far from over, Lyubov said. The staff are working on hiring students to get the center up and running.
“Right now we’re actually in the process of hiring two student positions,” Lyubov said. “One of them is going to be a more media-tech position, and then there’s going to be an outreach position. And the positions are both posted on Husky Jobs.”
Lyubov is optimistic about the D Center and its impact on disability efforts across campus, and hopes the center will one day move into the HUB with the other student diversity offices.
“Right now it’s a pretty small space, so it’s going to be really straight-forward,” Lyubov said. “But this is just an awesome start.”
Reach reporter Amelia Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AmeliaDickson
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