College students are redefining ‘disability’ on their own terms

young woman with glasses in front of flowering bush, holding white board with the words: "Disabled and empowered"
Anna Noel Pickett is the President of the Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CSD). |Addison Lucia

Students with disabilities at Seattle University are coming together to embrace their community and share what having a disability means to them. The Seattle University Coalition for Students with Disabilities organized a photo shoot, and students were given the opportunity to share how they view their identity as part of the community of people with disabilities through their photos. Each participant in the photo shoot was photographed holding a sign that said “Disabled and —-” with the option to fill in the end with their own individual meaning. For example, the President of the Coalition Anna Pickett held a sign that read “Disabled and Empowered” in her photo. Pickett told SU’s on-campus newspaper, The Spectator, that, “I’ve said this a lot but I really really believe that my disability has made me a more creative and empathetic person, in a way that if I didn’t have a disability, I wouldn’t be.” Student allies also had the option to be photographed holding a sign that read “Ally and proud” – one of the allies photographed was the photographer who freely donated his time to this campaign.

young woman with pigtails holds a whiteboard: "Disabled and more than capable"
Rayna Mitchell-Rose is the marketing chair of CSD executive board. | Addison Lucia

The photos will be the focus of a campaign currently being organized by the Coalition. The campaign highlights themes of #Disabledandproud #Allyandproud and #StoptheStigma. Through the campaign, the Coalition hopes to strengthen the community of people with disabilities and contribute to “fostering positive perceptions of people with disabilities,” as they explained on the event’s Facebook page. Elaborating, they emphasized that “having a disability and being disabled is not negative” and that they hope to reclaim “the word disabled, a word that over years of systematic ableist oppression has been deemed a ‘bad’ word.” The photo campaign took place the last week of April 2016. Pickett told Rooted in Rights that the Coalition will debut the photo campaign on May 19th “after that the photos will be made public on social media and on photo boards on campus.”

Photos used with permission.

Young man with glasses holding a whiteboard: "Ally and Proud"
Addison Lucia, the photographer for #disabledandproud #allyandproud campaign. |Addison Lucia

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.