Students share experiences for disAbility Awareness Month

Ashleigh Metzinger

Having a disability affects more than just an individual’s learning environment. A disability can impact a college student’s social and personal experiences.

As a part of National Disability Awareness Month, Student Accessibility Services is hosting a variety of events to celebrate individuals’ abilities rather than disabilities.

The celebration is tentatively known as dAM. According to SAS, “the ‘d’ is intentionally lower-case to emphasize people’s ability rather than disability.”

“Our events provide an outlet for voices of disAbility aimed at raising awareness and promoting inclusion of individuals with varying abilities,” said Shannon Cowling, Assistant Director of Accessible Communication and Media for SAS. “Students using accommodations want to be treated like every other student. They want to have friends, get invited to parties, study and grow without being judged by their peers, faculty or staff.”

Students joined together Oct. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the University library for a dAM event called Defining (Your)self: A conversation of Disability + Diversity. Attendees heard from a student panel as they responded to questions about the social construct of disability and shared their personal experiences.

Students answered questions such as, “Are there any cultural repercussions that would hinder you from identifying that you have a disability or need an accommodation?”

“Our culture has a tendency to blame the individual rather than believing he or she has a disability,” freshman Mimi Freeman said. “My friend is dyslexic, but she lies about it because she thinks people will see her differently.”

Cowling hopes the student discussion panels and other dAM events will raise awareness about inclusion issues.

“Not only is it important to talk about the diverse issues students face, the events aim to remove any social and physical barriers to enable the full social participation of individuals with differences on our campus,” Cowling said. “The activities planned go ‘beyond compliance’ with the law in supporting inclusive attitudes, settings and practices. Most importantly, we want to celebrate the diverse abilities of persons with disabilities.”

SAS will host more dAM events this month, including its featured event with speaker, Dr. Temple Grandin, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Kent Student Center Ballroom.

Contact Ashleigh Metzinger at [email protected].