The DRC and Professor Lindsay Hamm work together to help students understand equity and disability

Updated: Oct. 30, 2023

Pictured: students walk past the purdue engineering fountain on a summer day

Pictured: Students walk past the Purdue Engineering Fountain on a summer day

In today’s progressing society, we have normalized many conversations about previously taboo topics, but some have kept their label of “Do Not Discuss.” This is because there can be a sense of insecurity when talking about these social issues, one being disability.

Lindsay Hamm, a professor of sociology, currently teaches a course titled “Social Problems.” In this class, Hamm aims to close that gap of discomfort and open students up to conversations about disability.

One of the big questions Hamm answers in her class is "Where does disability fall in regards to social issues?" 

“Functional diversity (traditionally referred to as disability) shapes individuals' experiences with all social institutions, not just healthcare,” Hamm explains. “These are people who actively participate in society but face unique structural barriers others don’t.” 

According to Hamm, another aspect of the conversation around disability involves the idea of privilege. This sparks lots of interest and questions from students and allows them to think of privilege from a new perspective. Many times, students come into Hamm’s class not recognizing ability as a privilege.

“People don't think about anxiety or depression as something that would fit into the category of disability. They don't think about having a normative, neurotypical way of your brain functioning as something that is very privileged, by the way we've set up education,” Hamm states.

With that said, there is no universal way of learning and succeeding in Hamm’s class. Although she cannot accommodate everything, she provides equity as students are aware they have multiple chances and resources to succeed. This is because Hamm has created a relationship with Purdue’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) and encourages students to utilize the DRC’s countless resources when they need extra support.

The DRC is the office designated by Purdue to provide services, resources, and programs to facilitate equal access for disabled students, resulting in their full participation in curricular and co-curricular offerings. Hamm explains how a student’s personal information can be directed to the DRC because it is a safe and beneficial place to disclose whatever is inhibiting one’s learning experience.

It’s important for students to know that it is completely normal and advantageous to visit the DRC, especially because many students do not seek help because they don’t want to take advantage of something they feel is unnecessary to their learning. Hamm normalizes the DRC as a place where students can get help with proactively identifying and removing barriers to access.

Many students come away from Hamm’s Social Problems course saying that everyone should take this class. Why?

“They're coming away with a better awareness of different issues," Hamm says. "From that first day, they are learning to identify aspects of their social identity that impact how institutions and organizations other people treat them and see them.

“Students love to gain this new perspective, and it’s a valuable one to have as they move through our increasingly connected and equity-minded society.”

Students who take Hamm’s course are guaranteed to learn, grow and expand their knowledge of themselves and others while being guided with support and accessible resources like the DRC. The DRC supports students in and out of the classroom; beyond supporting students' accommodation needs, the work also entails engaging with the Social Problems course and with other instructors who are interested in improving the accessibility of their courses.

For more information, visit the DRC website

headshot of communications student assistant, elle hall

Elle Hall

Student Communications Assistant for Student Success Programs,