Two student organizations supporting disabled people on campus announced April 25 that they are merging to form a new advocacy organization called Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring.
UW-Madison sophomore Brelynn Bille, who serves as the director of disability rights at DREAM, said the group’s goal is to combine the aims of both Badger Advocate for Diverse Abilities and Badger Student Transition and Resource Team and extend disability advocacy even further.
“We realized our organizations were very similar and decided we could continue our services more efficiently by merging,” Bille said. “With more members, we have more connections, and other campus groups have already been reaching out to work with us.”
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Bille said that by having one single organization, DREAM hopes to become more cohesive and use their larger membership to tackle more issues than they could before.
DREAM is a national organization sponsored by the National Center for College Students with Disabilities. DREAM at UW is this organization’s local chapter, Bille said.
The difficulties of operating during a pandemic influenced ADA and START’s decisions to become one group, Bille said.
“Our membership was kind of low and we were also struggling with COVID,” Bille said. “With so many members with disabilities, going fully on zoom was very difficult. It just made a lot of sense for everyone to join forces.”
Even in its infancy, DREAM has already started numerous projects, Bille said. Currently, DREAM is in the process of petitioning Gov. Tony Evers to recognize July as Disability Pride Month.
The leaders of DREAM see a lot of potential for growth and plan to use their greater numbers to do more outreach, Bille said.
“We’ll just be trying to advocate for new services in the area, supporting each other and dismantling some of the barriers we face on campus,” Bille said.