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Budding center embraces disability as a culture

The Disability Cultural Center is the only one of its kind on college campuses to fall under student affairs, bringing more groups to it.

Disabled students at Syracuse University now have a venue in which to embrace disability as a culture and to display their pride in that culture.

“Disability certainly is a set of complex experiences for different people,” said Diane Weiner, the Disability Cultural Center’s inaugural director.

The Disability Cultural Center officially began at the beginning of the fall 2011 semester, and Weiner assumed her role in the beginning of October. The groundwork is still being laid for programs, and the physical location adjacent to established disability programs inside the Hoople Special Education Building is still being remodeled.

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The idea for the center began with the Chancellor’s Task Force on Disability, which was established in 2005 to examine SU’s strengths and weaknesses in disability issues, Weiner said. The group released a report in 2007, and the center was among the recommendations to improve the campus.

Though looking at disability as a culture — in the same way one might view religion or sexuality — is a national movement, SU’s center is the only one of its kind on college campuses located under the umbrella of student affairs, Weiner said. As such, like other student affairs cultural centers, a number of student organizations will be associated with it, such as the Undergraduate Disability Initiative and the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee.

Eddie Zaremba, a junior entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises major, sits on the advisory board for the center and is a founding member of the Undergraduate Disability Initiative. He believes the center will help SU foster “the understanding of having a disability and going beyond the model of, ‘OK, I need these accommodations. I’ll go to (the Office of Disability Services), and they’ll write me a letter,’” he said.

Weiner is already planning a number of activities to help the center achieve its goals. She would like to have an evening of dialogue about interfaith views on disability, as well as lighter events like a movie night.

“Let’s have something to eat, and let’s talk about that,” Weiner said. “Let’s share ideas and talk about comfort and discomfort and opportunity and struggle.”

For more information or to get involved, students can contact Weiner at or the center’s graduate assistant, Alexander Umstead, at

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