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San Diego State University

Disability As Diversity

Mendy McClure and Rita Robertson


Mendy McClure, aside from being an Aztec-Alum, has been teaching for the special education department at San Diego State since 1993. In 1998, Mendy was asked to teach the General Studies 420 class, modeled after a very popular class at the University of Florida. “This class is designed to bring disability awareness to the campus,” says Mendy. The class is more than a lecture class, it has a hands-on approach and Mendy agreed to teach the class if Rita Roberson could assist her and does on a volunteer basis. Aside from teaching this very popular class at San Diego State, Mendy is also a disability teacher at a middle school in El Cajon. Since the class is a general studies class and an elective for most students, a wide variety of students enroll and begin to have conversations revolving disabilities on and off campus and the students get to interact with one another. “Many people have family members or know someone with disabilities and Rita is a strong resource for the class. She has a lot of connections in the community and activities and participates in various services and organizations; she is definitely my link to the community. The initial class had only 60 students but last year the class had 350 students enrolled in it. San Diego State has a very broad diversity commitment, but this class is the only class that deals specifically with disabilities. There are other classes and majors that do include disability issues, especially in special education. “These classes have disability components to them but this class is completely devoted to disabilities,” McClure says. “The willingness of the students to get involved with people with disabilities is most important. Some students with disabilities are able to more comfortably engage with students without disabilities and finding that comfort level is what the class provides,” say McClure. The class increases the competency for people to engage with people that have disabilities all over campus by breaking down uncomfortable barriers that may have existed before. Thus, the overall awareness level of the university is increased and the level of diversity is increased. It is easy to see why this class can quickly become a favorite general studies course among students since they are able to use the skills learned in class and immediately apply them to real world situations. “When students say they have had the class, they describe the empowerment of being more comfortable and able to interact with disabilities while at the same time demonstrating that a disability does not define the person.”

For Faculty and Staff with Disabilities

Faculty and staff with qualifying disabilities should contact the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance for disability-related accommodations in the workplace. If you have mobility limitations, the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance can assist with on-campus cart service (based on availability).