Gordon’s club for disability, CAIM, is hosting Living Disabilities Week from March 28 to April 1. The campaign’s purpose is to uplift disabled voices on Gordon’s campus and educate the student body about societal and social issues concerning to the disabled community. Gordon used to hold a similar campaign annually, but CAIM has reintroduced the event for the first time since 2014 with a new name.
CAIM is an acronym that stands for Community, Accessibility, Inclusivity, and Meaning, but it is also an old Scottish Gaelic word meaning “sanctuary” or “ring of protection.” The club was officially chartered in April 2021 and is led by co-presidents Mikayla Martin and Jackson Haskell, social media manager Sophia Rowe, and Secretary Emily Butterworth.
As Haskell noted, the purpose of the club is to promote inclusivity on campus. “There are so many different kinds of disabilities and there are so many different meanings of the word ‘disability.’ These are tough subjects we want to open up about more.”
Martin explained the name of the campaign:
“The reason we’re calling it Living Disabilities Week is to show that disability is something that is alive and is more than just a quality someone has – usually it’s a negative quality people think of. We’re trying to show that people with disabilities live full lives without their disabilities being a main factor of that, so we’re trying to show a nuanced perspective of what disability is and how it affects someone.”
The club has organized a number of events for Living Disabilities Week, ranging from special Chapel services to collaborations with organisations within the Multicultural Initiatives Office. The campaign begins with Gordon alumnus Brett Olson as a guest speaker at Monday Chapel. Olson is a youth ministry specialist with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects mobility and muscle development. On Tuesday, consulting network Work Without Limits will host an etiquette training event on how colleges can diversify and accommodate for disabled students. Wednesday marks the Disability in Art event, in which Tim Ferguson Sauder will discuss the dynamic accessibility icon movement.
On Thursday, CAIM is holding an event in collaboration with MIO to discuss the intersectionality of race, gender, and disability. Finally, the week concludes on Friday with a mixed media Convocation featuring an interview with prominent autism activist Dr. Temple Grandin, as well as student testimonies and a highlight of Gordon’s Academic Success Center.
Other events throughout the week include a student, alumni, and faculty panel, collaborations with La Vida and the Gordon College Rowing team, and a prayer walk. All events are open to the entire student body; the full schedule is available on CAIM’s Instagram page.
This wide variety of events was designed highlight the diversity of the disabled experience. “In all of these events, whether they’re about disability etiquette or the paralympics, we want to dedicate the time to center the disabled experience on campus,” Rowe said. “Throughout the year we hold little discussion meetings and events, but these are kind of within a bubble. [The upcoming events] really invite the whole campus to participate in this conversation.”
Martin expressed concern over the stigma surrounding disability at Gordon.
“Ableism is pervasive on this campus and around the world. I think a lot of people still hold the view that disability is inherently a negative thing … It’s been within the last 20 to 30 years that the disability rights community is reclaiming what disability is. Yes, it sucks sometimes, but it’s so much more nuanced than that.”
CAIM has been working with Gordon’s administration to improve campus physical accessibility. Many buildings are difficult or almost impossible to navigate for those with mobility issues. “There are a lot of simple things, like fixing door pads, better lighting, braille, and floorboards to certain entrances, that improve quality of life,” Haskell said.
After these smaller adjustments, CAIM leadership say the next step is to tackle the wider attitude towards disability. Martin explained: “We want the campus mentality to be accessible as a whole. This stems not just from the administration, but from hearing students who have really difficult times with their professors because they don’t know how to accommodate them in a classroom.”
Rowe also addressed stigma towards disability in the church.
“If people, especially Christians, bring up disability, it’s often in the context of ‘healing’ instead of it being as it is. We’ve had students come to us because they’d been targeted and brought to be ‘healed’ in certain contexts.… It’s not only a dismissal of identity, but makes disability a thing to be ashamed of.”
CAIM leadership hopes that Living Disabilities Week will gather engagement from the whole student body and continue to make disabled students at Gordon feel safer. Additionally, Haskell and Rowe expressed enthusiasm for collaboration with other campus groups in the future to widen the scope of the conversation and to gain rapport among Gordon’s clubs.
For more information and updates from CAIM on Living Disabilities Week and other events, follow @disability_gordon on Instagram and watch out for CAIM emails.