On April 10th, the Yale Alumni Association, in collaboration with alumni volunteers and with the support of George Washington University, hosted its first DiversAbility event, a panel discussion that mixed the need for greater awareness with the sharing of personal narratives, insights, and experiences.
The event was titled, “DiversAbility: Perspectives on Disability, Equity and Inclusion at Yale and Beyond,” and drew a wide range of alumni and volunteer leaders. That group included moderator Thomas Dolan ’05 and panelists Michelle Hackman ’15, reporter at The Wall Street Journal; Jessie Benedict ’16, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University; Matt Poggi ’92 BA/MA, ’96 MD, ex-radiation oncologist and U.S. Navy veteran; and Joseph P. Fisher, assistant director of disability support services at George Washington.
The panel discussed the array of talents, skills, and contributions that people with disabilities offer and included a candid conversation about the issues and challenges faced by people with disabilities and the accessibility services offered by Yale and other universities. Approximately 11% of U.S. undergraduates register a disability with their school, according to Yale's Resource Office on Disabilities, though the actual number is thought to be at least twice that.
“Disabilities affect nearly one in five Americans, including many students on campus and our alumni,” said Dolan, a doctoral candidate at GW and a member of the YAA Board of Governors. “This was an amazing opportunity to bring some of our incredible alumni together to share stories and to raise awareness, comfort, and fluency surrounding this constituency to forge a path forward that is more inclusive and welcoming for all. We hope this is just the beginning of expansive and coalitional work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Attendees ranged from those who had a disability to those who had relatives with disabilities, as well as those who simply wanted to learn more about the topic and support the assembled alumni.
Image credit: Photo by Author