Delta Alpha Pi, also known as DAPi, was a strong, well-attended organization before the COVID-19 pandemic that focused on supporting students with disabilities, according to DAPi president Isabelle Borduas.
As the pandemic went on, students struggled to maintain the same connection that they had when in person, according to Dow Hammond, assistive technology coordinator for the Student Disability Center and DAPi advisor.
"That was a very difficult time. Just as everything suddenly changed, became online, wasn't able to meet in person. I think part of the challenge too, was just the technology shift," Hammond said.
Due to the struggles going online presented, Hammond decided to revive DAPi. Students from all walks of life were interested in joining DAPi and the group began in-person operations during the fall 2021 semester, according to Hammond.
"Delta Alpha Pi has pushed me to be a leader and activist more on campus, before this, I really was afraid to speak up a lot about my disability," said third-year social work student Borduas. "It's something that I feel singled me out in the classroom."
DAPi, an honors society for students with disabilities, aims to be an inclusive and compassionate organization that helps students in times of transition by providing support and counsel when needed, according to their Garnet Gate page. Their main goal is to beat the perceptions set by society about students with disabilities and help students overcome their own self-imposed perceptions.
“Delta Alpha Pi provides that safe space for members on campus who do have different disabilities for us to congregate,” Borduas said, “A lot of times student organizations are for able-bodied members on campus to help disabled members and help the disabled community, so we don't really have a space specifically for us."
There are other organizations on campus, such as Student Government, that speak up for students with disabilities. What differentiates DAPi is the fact that it is mainly composed of students with disabilities, so they are speaking up for and representing themselves and providing a safe environment to discuss concerns, according to Borduas.
DAPi is also involved in educating students on the issues, concerns and treatment of students with disabilities.
“It's kind of an educational experience. For me, even though I have disabilities, the sheer range of disabilities and how much it affects an individual person was surprising to me," said Daniel Hanlin, a fourth-year criminal justice student and DAPi member. "I like listening. I like to check my understanding."
DAPi strives to better the USC community through outreach and public events that they hold regularly, according to Borduas.
“If anyone approaches us and is like, 'hey, I really want to be educated on this topic, can you tell me about it?' we want to be the first ones to jump at it, "Borduas said, "So a lot of times on campus, we base little comments that maybe people don't realize are rooted in ableism.”
DAPi plans on holding multiple events this spring, all involved with outreach, providing a kind place for students with disabilities and educating the USC community on the issues facing students with disabilities.
DAPi's main project this semester is a fundraiser for Able SC, a non-profit in South Carolina dedicated to supporting people with disabilities. They also plan on selling infographics that will be created by different communities.
“My biggest hope with the organization and members is not just joining by paying the due but also involvement in engagement," Hammond said.
USC students, faculty, staff and alumni can apply to be an associate member of DAPi. To be an active member that can vote and serve as an officer, students must have a documented disability and be registered with the Student Disability Resource Center, among other criteria.
"I think it is a privilege to be able to speak up for the others who are on campus and speak up for ourselves as well," Borduas said, "I think Delta Alpha Pi is going to hopefully be a big step in the train that starts the inclusive movement on campus for disabilities and accommodations."