Kent community to celebrate disability Awareness Month

Toni Hunt

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) invites individuals to acknowledge their differences and increase awareness of the obstacles they face on and off campus with “disAbility Awareness Month” (dAM).

The month helps comfort the students and encourages them to embrace their disabilities, giving a voice to those that would be too shy to tell people about their disabilities.

Kayleigh Sweeney, a freshman in visual communication design major, has dyslexia and dyscalculia. She said celebrating dAM allows others to see people diagnosed with a disability aren’t “dumb.”

“It shows people who have succeeded with their disabilities,” Sweeney said. “That we actually can do stuff.”

Although dAM helps individuals with disabilities feel welcome and not judged, she said focusing on people with disabilities should be an ongoing thing.

“I don’t think it should be a certain month,” Sweeney said. “People are more accepting that month..then next month people are like ‘oh whatever.’”

Shannon Cowling, the Deaf & Hearing Services coordinator said that Kent State accommodates more than 2,000 students with disabilities campus-wide.

She said it is important to look at how far society has come in “protection against discrimination against people with disabilities.”

“The mission is to highlight events for the community, staff, faculty and students,” Cowling said. “(It also tries to) promote looking at people’s abilities as opposed to their disabilities.”

SAS, in correspondence with dAM committee members, planned the month’s agenda with events that highlight disability awareness.

According to dAM’s website, the month’s events include: Dogs on Campus; the Homecoming Parade; the Kent Bike Ride; Paint the Rock and Disability and Disruption: A Graduate Student Panel Discussion.

Katie Goldring, assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) and committee member of dAM, said the month’s agenda will feature speakers whose messages will have an impact. She said this year’s keynote speaker is April Holmes.

“She’s a paralympic athlete who has had great success in her field,” Goldring said.

Goldring said Holmes is going to be talking about motivation, leadership and diversity.

Cowling said the discussion panel will allow students to discuss their views and empower the community.

“(We should) give them a voice,” Cowling said. “(It’s important to) talk to the student.”

Cowing said being empathic, less judgmental and treating people the way people want to be treated can go a long way.

Toni Hunt is the education, health and human services reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].