My Davidson | A Student Blog Disability Resources & Student Experience at 黑社区

a young woman reads a book while laying on a blanket on a grassy lawn

ST Hammer '24, Gabby Morreale '23 and Malavika Kalani '24 reflect on their decision to come to Davidson, ways they've gotten involved in disability advocacy on campus and resources to support their student experience, such as through AADR Office and the Davidson Disability Alliance student organization, amongst others.


About the Authors

This blog post was co-written by ST Hammer '24, Gabby Morreale '23 and Malavika Kalani '24. 

Learn more about them below.


ST Hammer 鈥24: Self-Advocacy & Supportive Community

Sarah Todd Hammer 鈥24

ST (Sarah Todd) Hammer 鈥24 (she/her/hers) is a psychology and communication studies double major from Atlanta, Georgia. "I am a 3-time published author, speaker, and disability advocate. I have been physically disabled for 12 years and enjoy using the knowledge and experience I have gained from living as a disabled individual to ignite change." Learn more about her in the Davidson Journal Magazine鈥檚 Q&A.

I鈥檝e been physically disabled since I was 8 years old; I have paralysis in my arms and hands. There were times when my family wondered how I would be able to attend college away from home given that I require assistance with activities of daily living. However, I always knew I鈥檇 be able to attend college 鈥 I knew I would find a way to make things work.

Being disabled has taught me how to be my own advocate because I have to tell people what I need in order to be independent. I started my college search process early 鈥 I first toured Davidson the fall of my junior year, and I visited again the fall of my senior year of high school. Immediately, I fell in love with Davidson鈥檚 campus and values; I loved how the school seemed to care a lot about the character and integrity of its students. During the search process, I had worries about discrimination during the application process due to my disability 鈥 I had heard of such incidences occurring before. But I felt comfortable disclosing my disability on my application to Davidson. I decided I wouldn鈥檛 be the person I am without my disability, so I was proud to discuss it on my application.

When I found out I was accepted to Davidson, I was elated. Since starting school here in August 2020, my experience has not been without challenges, but I鈥檝e learned so much working through them. The disability office has been a great resource to me for providing accommodations; they even re-did the bathroom in my dorm room each year to meet my needs. Fall semester 2021, I couldn鈥檛 open the doors to two of my classes. Within a couple of days, the knob on one door had been changed, and an accessible button had been added to the other. Responses to accessibility needs such as these always make me happy. And I鈥檓 not afraid to ask for what I need 鈥 I鈥檝e learned along my disability journey that it is empowering to be my own advocate.

Disability advocacy work is at the heart of what I enjoy; it is one of my greatest passions. This is why I am co-president of Davidson Disability Alliance (DDA), Davidson鈥檚 new and improved disability club on campus. We provide awareness and education surrounding disability, as well as celebrate disability culture and identity. I鈥檝e also met a good amount of disabled students at Davidson, many of whom have become my greatest friends. Running DDA and interacting with other disabled students has expanded my knowledge regarding disability issues and helped me build meaningful connections 鈥 for which I鈥檓 incredibly thankful.

Gabby Morreale 鈥23: Davidson, Disability, and Discovery

Gabby Morreale

Gabby Morreale 鈥23 (she/her/hers) is a communication studies major and intended philosophy minor from Washington, D.C. "I am passionate about disability justice, specifically exploring the limbo between able-bodied and deaf individuals that many hard-of-hearing people experience. I live in Washington, D.C., and love to run, bake, and knit in my spare time."

Davidson was not the place I expected to be. I walked through countless college tours, as every high school senior is expected to do, unsure about how I could make the right decision for the next four years of my life. Davidson was the last of my college tours, a quaint little town that tired my mother and me out after driving six hours straight. I had no complaints about Davidson during the tour and could imagine myself there just as I did with the 10 other schools I had applied to.

But since then, I know that there is no other school for me but Davidson. Despite being a junior now, my freshman year professors still remember me and greet me when I pass them, and I am never without a friendly face in each of my classes. Extracurricular activities are vibrant here, and I love that Davidson creates a space where my fellow peers garner enthusiasm with me in whatever activity I鈥檓 engaged in or am interested in starting. I鈥檓 writing, reading, and learning constantly, but it always feels like productive work and a chance to explore my own skill set across disciplines as a Communication Studies major.

Another exploration I鈥檝e recently undertaken that is most important to me is my identity as a disabled student at Davidson. Though I work closely with the Academic Access and Disability Resources office here and they help me get any and all accommodations for my classes I might need, I wanted to develop the cultural facet of my identity along with the logistical one. Davidson has been an amazing support system in allowing me to do so, with the Theatre Department helping me to develop a creative scene about my hearing loss in their 2021 original production of 鈥淯nveiled and Unvarnished鈥 and the Davidsonian publishing multiple articles I鈥檝e written about the realities of living with a disability.

The Davidson Disability Alliance, which has recently been reinvigorated, has helped me connect with people through disability as I鈥檝e never been able to before. I now study and look at all of my work in my classes through a critical lens of disability and of disability justice. As a result, Davidson is not just intellectually holistic for me, but allows me to look at how my identity functions for me individually and in part of the bigger 黑社区 of Davidson. Through all of the disciplines that I work best in, Davidson has provided a secure platform for me to easily build and grow as an individual and as a member of the Davidson student body as a whole!

Malavika Kalani 鈥24: Independence, Identity And Inclusion

Malavika Kalani

Malavika Kalani 鈥24 (she/her/hers) is a math and computer science major from Kolkata, India. "I am passionate about pursuing data science, and some of my other interests include theatre, adventure sports and travel."

Coming from a country where disability awareness and accessibility still has a long way to go, I was really excited for the new experiences Davidson had in store for me. I had always aspired to come to the U.S. for college, not only because I wanted a liberal arts education but also because of the accessible infrastructure that allows me to be as independent as possible. I was not apprehensive about living on my own on a different continent because I have never considered my disability a hindrance. I met with Kaye-Lani Laughna, the international admission officer at Davidson, when she was visiting Kolkata, and I was assured that Davidson ticked all the right boxes for me.

Before coming to Davidson, I never really engaged myself in disability advocacy because I felt like my identity went beyond my disability. However, my perspective changed when I met some amazing people on campus who made me realize that advocating for inclusivity is important for both disabled and non-disabled people.

My mobility scooter and walker are essential for me to conveniently move around campus. Last semester, I had the most challenging time when my mobility scooter broke down unexpectedly. I was stressed trying to figure out the quickest solution all by myself while also managing my other commitments. However, I reached out to Academic Access and Disability Resources (AADR) and worked closely with the Dean of 黑社区 Office to figure out possible alternatives. After almost a month of renting different scooters, my new scooter finally arrived. I am so grateful that the Dean of 黑社区 Office agreed to financially help me with the expenses of the scooter.

This whole experience not only made me feel proud of myself for being able to resolve the issue while living on my own but also thankful for being at an institution that truly looks out for each and every student.

Published

  • March 15, 2022

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