By Meghan McEntee Jubak
Sonya Rio-Glick wakes up to the sound of the fire alarm in her dorm building. Immediately, she is frightened. Will someone come to help her, does she have time to put on her leg braces?
Rio-Glick, a senior arts management student, has cerebral palsy, a physical disability that affects her motor skills and balance. Her experience at Purchase College as a disabled student has not been easy. In 2018, she led protests against the emergency evacuation plans for disabled students.
The Disabled Students Union (DSU) was once a club for students affected by visible and non-visible disabilities. The club has just been re-added to Pantherlink, after spending some time inactive due to lack of leadership. The DSU’s absence left an entire group of students to fend for themselves.
“Sometimes having some type of institution behind what you’re doing legitimizes what you’re doing,” said Rio-Glick when she spoke about how the DSU would have affected her protests on campus.
The DSU’s Facebook page shows their last post in September of 2018. Past events included accessibility issues on campus, a discussion about disabilities and discrimination and Counseling Center discussions where students expressed their concerns with counseling on campus.
Nicholas Astor, a sophomore history and anthropology double major, has taken on the role of president. He also performs comedy shows on campus and is the Outback Senator and Diversity Chair. Astor recently posted in the SUNY Purchase Open Forum on Facebook looking to spark student interest in the DSU and received a good response. He also has cerebral palsy.
“It’s important to have a safe space to talk about how we feel and reach out to the student body that a disability isn’t something scary,” said Astor. “It's something that happens, you live with it like hair or eye color.”
Jessica Gambino, a senior media studies and anthropology major as well as Coordinator of Clubs spoke about the club’s current status. According to Gambino, once the DSU’s Treasurer is established, they club will go through finance training and receive funds. With those finances, the DSU can host guest speakers or plan accessible events.
The Disabled Students Union isn’t just a club for those with physical disabilities; it includes those with non-visible disabilities as well. Christopher Delgado, a sophomore with an undeclared major doesn’t have a disability that's identifiable by leg braces or a wheelchair. Delgado has Asperger’s, a condition on the Autism spectrum. He heard about the possible revival of the DSU on Transfer Orientation Day, through Rio-Glick.
"I think the most important thing about a DSU would be a place where students can feel accepted and comfortable with who they are," said Delgado.
Sara Aulfinger, a sophomore majoring in history agreed and smiled at the idea of meeting new people.
"I think I'd like to see group bonding, and fun activities," said Aulfinger.
Students interested in the DSU can reach out to club President Nicholas Astor.