• September 22, 2022
Charissa Vandergrift. Photo: Celia Whitley
A new initiative at AUT will create a social space for disabled students to connect with each other.
The Disability Student Support Connect Space, also known as DSS Connect Space, takes place from 1pm to 4pm on Wednesdays in the Student Hub.
AUT disability support student advisora Charissa Vandergrift says disabled students are invited to connect with each other to help strengthen their sense of belonging
“Students who experience some sort of impairment can come by and just hang out,” said Vandergrift.
The space was suggested by students at the start of the year, after two years of on-and-off lockdowns caused them to feel isolated and disconnected.
The weekly space is an opportunity for students to talk to each other and relate their situations.
“We want to create a space that is warm and welcoming, and students can feel supported by each other,” said Vandergrift.
Students are invited to study in the space as well.
“It’s a social and study space. Some students focus better when there are others around them. For them, it’s not a matter of talking to other people around them, it’s just knowing that they’re there,” she said.
She said students facing a range of impairments often felt more isolated than other students, because there wasn’t a good understanding of what they experienced.
“For example, someone who experiences dyslexia has to work twice as hard as students who don’t, and those students don't know what that's like,” said Vandergrift.
There are hopes students will lead the group in future.
“It's one thing to set it all up, but it’s another thing to get it going and hope that people show up. There have been students who have expressed interest in volunteering. So eventually that's what we hope too,” said Vandergrift.
See the full list of the disability services that AUT offers to students here.