Access Your Abilities is about the power of community

A year ago, a new recognized student organization called Access Your Abilities was established at Minnesota State to increase awareness of and support for students with disabilities.

AYA President Sheridan Follis said accessibility resources have helped establish the club.

“A lot of students who go to the accessibility resources were saying they want more of a community,” said Follis. “And so we were able to get that started. Our general goal is to bring more awareness on campus about accessibility, students with disabilities and available resources.”

Accessibility Resources at MSU provides disability-related accommodations to students to provide equal access to education and campus life.

AYA Vice President Emily Dittrich named resources such as TRIO, Student Health Services and Counseling Center. Dittrich said there are more resources on campus that are useful.

Follis said while they are focused on building a community for students with disabilities, they are also welcoming students who care about it and want to support the group.

“I think students just wanted to connect with other students who had disabilities so they didn’t feel so isolated on campus, to know that they’re not alone,” said staff advisor Amy Gorka. 

Dittrich said some medical conditions, which students might not know about before college, can develop in early adulthood.

“Starting at college, maybe living in a dorm in a different town, is a rough time to have these developments in your life and have those changes. And when trying to go to school, maybe working, it would be great to have other people that know what you’re going through,” said Dittrich. “But for the most part, it could feel definitely very isolating if you were especially nervous about having a disability.”

“About 80% of disabilities are invisible. About 20% of the population has a disability; this is one in five people. If you have a lecture course of 100 students, in there 20 of those students may have a learning disability or ADHD or significant clinical depression,” said Gorka. “Those are the disabilities that nobody can see and nobody knows about and that can make it difficult for students to come forward. This group is just a great support and advocacy group.”

Dittrich said while students with visible disabilities cannot hide it, students with invisible disabilities might need support to share about their condition. AYA’s goal is to create a community that can provide needed support.

AYA meets at 4 p.m. every fourth Monday in CSU room 202. According to Follis, the group has planned events and activities they want to do throughout the semester.

“AYA also has game nights, they have study group nights,” said Gorka. “They do things like that just for students to come together and hang out or not feel alone in their studies.”

“But we also plan to check in and see how everyone is doing,” said Follis. “If we’re able to just get together and support each other, it makes a lot of difference.”

Photo caption: Accessibility Resources at MSU provides disability-related accommodations to students to provide equal access to education and campus life. (Courtesy Amy Gorka)

Write to Amalia Sharaf at

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