Mission and Philosophy


Syracuse University’s Disability Cultural Center (DCC) provides a space for connection and community while engaging in programming and outreach focusing on disability as diversity.

Our Philosophy

The DCC welcomes people with all disabilities, including developmental, mental health, learning, physical and addiction-related disabilities.

All DCC programs and activities are informed by tenets of existential philosophy, positive psychology and logotherapy. The overarching program philosophy is that we flourish when we are challenged to engage in questions of:

  • Identity/Agency (Who am I?),
  • Community (How do I belong in the world?), and
  • Purpose (How is my life linked to something larger than myself?) (Thompson, 2013).

These questions require continuous self-reflection on lived experience through the lens of personal meaning, with meaning defined as “the understandings that we develop of who we are, what the world is like, and how we fit in with and relate to the grand scheme of things” (Steger, 2012).

The disability rights movement and the academic field of disability studies both address the power of meaning and meaning-making for disabled people in its challenging of the medical model portrayal of disability as deficiency and its introduction into the lexicon of ableism, “the idea that a person’s abilities or characteristics are determined by disability or that people with disabilities as a group are inferior to nondisabled people” (Linton, 1998).

The DCC views ableism as both internally and externally oppressive to disabled people. As such, DCC activities and programming directly address the existential questions described above by centering on the impact of ableism (whether internalized or externally located) on one’s identity development and sense of agency, one’s sense of community and belonging, and one’s sense that their life is a part of something bigger than oneself. The DCC strives toward this goal by:

  • Guiding students to practice personal agency in reassigning personal meaning to their lives as disabled people,
  • Connecting students to the disability community at large both on and off campus, and
  • Educating students on the history and culture of disability and disability activism, both of which transcend the individual experience and offer opportunities to practice individual and collective action to challenge ableism, stigma and oppression in the world.


  • Linton, S. (1998). Claiming disability: Knowledge and identity. New York, NY: NYU Press.
  • Steger, M. F. (2012). Experiencing meaning in life: Optimal functioning at the nexus of well-being, psychopathology, and spirituality. In P. Wong, & P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2 ed., pp. 165-184). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Thompson, G. R. (2013). Addiction: Theory & Practice. In L. C. Wong, The Positive Psychology of Meaning and Addiction Recovery (pp. 135-178). Birmingham: Purpose Research.