Students at the University of Missouri are petitioning to create a disabilities studies program.
MU professors Anand Prahlad and Julie Passanante Elman have already begun creating the coursework for the program. If approved by administration, students who complete the program would earn a certificate which is similar to earning a minor in disability studies.
MU Disability Inclusion and ADA Compliance Manager Amber Cheek says the program is similar to the Multicultural Certificate that is already offered by the university.
“A disability studies program provides that sense of community to people who are used to not having a sense of community,” Cheek said. “It can be this amazingly enriching thing that puts people with disabilities and people without disabilities in a room and gets them to talk about it, which is something we don’t do in our culture enough.”
A student-led organization called Mizzou Unity Coalition created the online petition as a way to show administration that there is student demand for the program outside of healthcare and education majors.
Kelli Wilson, a sophomore studying Human Development and Family Science in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, is interested in completing the program if it is approved before she graduates.
Wilson hopes to work as a child life specialist upon graduation, a job that involves therapeutic play and psychological preparation to help reduce anxiety and stress in children related to illness, disability, hospitalization and medical procedures.
“I think a disability minor would be incredibly useful to me not just because I’m working in a medical setting but also because I’m working with people,” Wilson said.
The petition also allows the Columbia community to voice their interest in having disability studies in the area. According to Cheek, 20 percent of Americans have a disability, and she believes disability is something everyone should know about.
“I’m absolutely certain that if we start a disability studies certificate it will have so many positive ripple effects into the community, into making sure people are more prepared in their future work and for just enriching people in general because everyone is going to work with or love someone with a disability at some point in their lives” Cheek said.