Zach Perrier, Contributing Writer
The Disability Advocacy and Support Alliance (DASA) hosted a space-themed Silent Ball last Friday night, April 14, 2023, in Knowlton Commons. The event, similar to a silent disco, greeted ball-goers with colorful headphones and a wide array of decorations, such as planet beach balls and galactic tapestries. People who went chatted, danced and even got to play catch with beach balls.
Dana Giffin ’23, Scot Council Accessibility Representative and co-founder of DASA, told the Voice that the event was the first of its kind for the young organization, and that the ball aimed to create an event that was sensory-friendly and therefore one that anyone could enjoy. “It can be isolating to have a disability on campus, so we really wanted other people to talk about their shared struggles, or shared triumphs…providing that space to talk to one another.”
DASA itself was founded last spring, sprouting from the Disability in STEM group created on campus. The group now has seventy registered members and is devoted to providing a greater sense of community to people with disabilities. This includes bi-weekly meetings and planning larger events such as the Silent Ball.
Caitlyn Strassburg ’23, another DASA founder, also spoke with the Voice about both the event and the larger focus of DASA. With about a fifth of undergraduate students nationally reported to have a disability in the 2015-2016 academic year, Strassburg stressed the need for groups like DASA across the nation to create a community and support system for students with disabilities.
This system connects to the wider campus community. Jordanne Semper-Scott ’25, another organizer of the event, said that “As DASA’s newly appointed Intersectionality Liaison, my role is to reach out to various BIPOC organizations…this helps bring DASA into the main sphere of other student-led organizations and to reflect how various identities may intersect with each other.”
Strassburg also emphasized the need for campus to be more accessible to students with disabilities, “not just on a case-by-case basis.” She noted that event spaces such as the Underground (UG) are not as accessible for students due to its narrow staircase and, for many of the UG’s events, loud music and flashing lights. Strassburg and the other organizers of the event therefore worked to create a place that anyone could be in, selecting Knowlton Commons for its wheelchair access and quiet atmosphere.
For many of the ball-goers, the event was seen as not only a relaxing and welcoming space, but also a necessary one. Hannah Eastman ’24 said that the ball was “a great way to celebrate community and create an accessible space for fun on a campus that struggles with providing resources for students with disabilities.” Emma Place ’24 noted that she attended the event with her friends who are a part of the disabled community. She stated that, “The best part was being able to hang out in a sensory safe environment with some of my best friends!”