Disability scholar, advocate, and author Amy Kenny will join Georgetown University in August as the inaugural associate director of the Disability Cultural Initiative. As part of the Division of Student Affairs, the Initiative will provide supportive and educational services to all disabled community members and will be the foundation for the eventual establishment of a Disability Cultural Center.
“The appointment of our first associate director of the Disability Cultural Initiative is an important next step in supporting and empowering disabled students and their allies at Georgetown,” says Jeanne F. Lord, interim vice president of student affairs and dean of students.
Celebrating disability culture
Having earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Sussex and a Master of Arts in Shakespeare from the University of London, Kenny currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in disability studies, Shakespeare, and early modern theater as a lecturer at the University of California, Riverside. She has also mentored marginalized students, served on the Mayor’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task force in Southern California, and co-led a mutual aid group supporting people experiencing homelessness.
“I saw so many Jesuit values in how I live my life, and that seemed like a great fit with Georgetown,” Kenny said in a recent Q&A. She describes her childhood experiences in Brisbane, Australia, her goals for disability inclusion, and her pride in disability culture. Kenny, who rides a mobility scooter named after Wonder Woman, has written about her own experiences as a disabled person in My Body is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church (2022), and for Teen Vogue, Huff Post, Audacity, and Sojourners. She says she hopes that in sharing her story, she will encourage others to share theirs, too, and change some of the assumptions about disability.
At Georgetown, Kenny plans to help shape the Disability Cultural Initiative and the eventual Disability Cultural Center as a space where disabled students can tell their own stories, celebrate disability culture, and educate the Georgetown community as a whole on access needs. Part of that advocacy work will include broadening an understanding of what access needs are and how all students are supported by disability culture. “You might not know it, but you are probably already benefiting from disability culture,” Kenny explains. “Everything from the electric toothbrush to texting to the potato peeler to the touch screen was created by and for and with disabled people.”
Kenny also plans to host artists-in-residence and speakers to discuss themes central to disability culture, and to establish peer-mentorship programs, office hours, and “crip coffee time” to get to know Georgetown’s disabled community.
Kenny says she will seek out collaborations across campus “to make sure that disabled people get to thrive in every space while at Georgetown,” adding that “the ultimate goal is to co-create space where disabled people (with apparent and non-apparent disabilities) can fully belong and thrive, where we don’t have to mask our disabilities or deal with the stigma or shame that many have around disability.”