Disabled Student Union joins Panthers in advocating for accessibility

Disabled Students Club advocate for accessibility(Left to right) Kaily LaChapelle, Hua Hui Voguel and Ness Cruz promoting the Disabled Student Union on social media | Via the DSU Instagram

Ana Mancebo | Staff Writer

FIU’s new Disabled Student Union unites people in the journey of creating inclusivity and accessibility on campus and beyond.

The club was founded in the 2023 summer semester by club president Hua Hui Vogel, a junior biochemical engineering major who has raised awareness towards issues of inclusivity for disabled people since their time in high school.

“I created a Disabled Plus Abled Honor Society [in high school], and from this project I wanted to create that same advocacy and bring it to college,” said Vogel. 

Club meetings will work as a social gathering for all Panthers and a place for people to learn about disabilities.

The DSU will not only focus on disability awareness within FIU, but will also advocate for communities outside of the university.

“We’re here to show how we can progress in the right direction, how we can come together as a community to advocate for a common cause,” said Vogel.

The DSU is also planning on working with other FIU organizations, including the Pride Student Union and the Division of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.

“The DSU/PSU collaboration is basically about ableism and discrimination in the healthcare system, both regarding the LGBTQ+ community and the disability community and how we can be more inclusive,” Vogel explained.

Amanda Niguidula and Mario Lewis, respectively the Director of the Disability Resource Center and the Assistant Director of Education and Learning in the DEI Office, are the club’s two co-advisors.

“When we hear that ‘I’ in DEI, standing for ‘Inclusive,’ the disability community is oftentimes left out,” said Vogel.

“One of the great things about having the director of the DRC being an advisor and the Assistant Director of Education and Learning in the DEI Office being an advisor is that it bridges that gap and brings about a more inclusive community.”

The club places emphasis on intersectionality, or how the overlap of social categorizations like disability, race and gender affect people differently. 

“We hope to have [American Sign Language] interpreters and mobility aids in meetings, making the spaces that we will use accessible for all students,” said Adam Wolson, the club’s treasurer and a sophomore mechanical engineering major.

Vogel also emphasized that able-bodied people are welcome in the club’s spaces. 

“Have an open mind. If you feel that because you’re not part of the community so you shouldn’t be a part of the conversation, allow yourself to be more open and come to one of our meetings,” said Vogel. 

The club welcomes all Panthers to come to learn about and advocate for people with disabilities and a more accessible campus.

“The Disabled Student Union is here for the student body, it here to represent the disability community, and here to bring awareness about the struggles, challenges, and triumphs that are being faced by disabled individuals,” said Vogel.

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