Madeline Brooks

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University’s only international honor society for students with disabilities, Delta Alpha Pi (DAPi), hosted its initiation ceremony on campus last month.

The ceremony, March 28, was the second ever for the group after Winthrop established its DAPi chapter in March 2018, as part of an effort to improve accessibility.

The group is open to all students with disabilities at Winthrop who have met the minimum GPA requirement of 3.1 and have completed at least 24 credit hours.

Shardae Nelson, assistant coordinator of the Office of Accessibility at Winthrop, helped bring the honor society to campus and put together the ceremony.

She said that the purpose of the ceremony is to initiate new members and recognize graduating students with honors cords.

Brenne Forst, a dance education major and DAPi member, said the society has given her a sense of belonging.

“I always felt like I was the odd person out whenever I was diagnosed. So I didn’t surround myself with people who had the same disabilities as me,” said Forst, who is a transfer student. “Once I found out about this honor society I was like ‘wow, there are people who look just like me’ and they share the same experiences with me. So I felt really glad.”

Lacey Todd, president of DAPi, said it’s important that students with disabilities find others to relate to.

“I think it’s definitely beneficial to be around other people with disabilities, because, for me and my group of friends, no one else really struggles with the same things. And I’ve met people with similar disabilities or just people that go through similar things, being in the honors society,” said Todd, a senior fine arts major.

Zachary Wise, a newly initiated DAPi member and biology major, said he agrees the society offers a community for students with disabilities.

“It’s a fairly new society so hopefully it will bring disability students together, almost like a support system,” Wise said. “Sometimes you can’t just go to your friend who has no idea what you’re talking about, but (society members) kind of know what we all go through.”

The creation of the honor society is one of many recent efforts Winthrop has made to make the university more accommodating for students with disabilities.

“I feel like this society can really be something that changes a lot of different things, not only on campus, but in the surrounding area of Rock Hill,” said Corrine Piner, a second year graduate student at Winthrop and DAPi member. “When we make decisions to advocate for others, one interaction can change someone’s life.”

Additionally, the department changed its name from the Office of Disability Services to the Office of Accessibility in 2015, which Nelson said is a more accurate name that emphasizes the university’s goal of offering equal access to all students.

In 2017, the Office of Accessibility moved from the Crawford Building to Bancroft Hall, which offers a much larger testing center and gives students more privacy.

However, Nelson said she looks forward to improving the experience at Winthrop for students with disabilities in the future.