National Disabilities Awareness Week: time to learn

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — What is a disability? Is it something as simple as a broken arm or a broken leg? Does a disability have to be simply something physical like that? Not many people actually know that they may already have a disability, or perhaps they just try to ignore it.
Disabilities can be both physical and mental. They could deal with someone who has to use a wheelchair to get around, or someone that has a problem with communicating with others.
The UCM Office of Accessibility Services will host its annual National Disability Awareness week Oct. 26-30. The week’s events will include simulation activities, assistive technology available on campus, a quiz for disability awareness, guest speaker Cathy Seeley, a documentary film on disability awareness and a meet-and-greet with THRIVE students.
The disability awareness quiz is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Café Rouge in the Union. Pradip Rai, accessibility services graduate assistant, said the quiz will focus on the different services the OAS has to offer. Rai said he hopes the quiz convinces people who have doubts about getting help from OAS will come and get the help they need.
Rai said the documentary is scheduled for 1-2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 in Union 234. The documentary shows different forms of disabilities, ranging from physical ones, such as being in a wheelchair, and mental ones, such as Down syndrome.
“But, the videos go farther than that,” Rai said. “They show that a person that looks normal, a person that is physically fit with no sign of outer deformity, could still have a disability. They could have trouble paying attention in class, or maybe be socially awkward. The videos show that a disability does not have to be one that can be seen, that they do not have to have some kind of proof in their appearance to have a disability.”
Rai said the meet-and-greet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, in the Union atrium will introduce members of campus to the THRIVE program and to inform people with disabilities that they can get help through THRIVE.
The OAS will also bring guest speaker Cathy Seeley to campus for National Disability Awareness Week.
Mayfield said Seeley is the OAS’s main technology expert. She will talk about what sorts of technology they could offer to those with disabilities. For example, the university offers alternate textbooks, audio textbooks and snapshots of pages that are read aloud by a computer.
Mayfield said Seeley will also explain to students about how they could make their own form of audio textbook, instead of buying one or trying to get one from the OAS.
Mayfield said UCM, a campus of more than 14,000 students, should statistically have roughly 1,400 students with some sort of disability. She said the OAS currently serves around 700 students.
“So we are serving about half of them,” Mayfield said. “We want to use Disability Awareness Week to get information out to the other 700 that know nothing about us, or are afraid to use it. We want to encourage them to come forward and to come to our office and get the help they deserve, but they can choose to not do so and simply come to us to learn the skills they would need for their classes, and to at least know that they have the option to come to us when they need the help.
“So there are two halves to this whole week of events. One is to let people with disabilities know that we are here to help, and the other is to let the general population know and accept that it is OK to have a disability.”
Rai said he saw a lot of discrimination of disabled people while he was growing up in Nepal. He said many people were living in a sort of frozen state, following old customs.
“People who were disabled were believed to be cursed in some way, whether through current actions or the actions of a past life,” Rai said. “The same could be said for disabled children, although some went as far as to call these children monsters and to treat them as such. These people lacked an awareness for those who were disabled and treated them differently, sometimes in extreme ways.”
Rai said he was not sure if he was treating those people in the way that he was supposed to treat them, which was one of his reasons for coming to America.
Sometimes living the way we do, day by day, makes a person forget what it could be like in other places. With National Disability Awareness Week approaching, the Office of Accessibility Services staff wants to emphasize the importance of knowing what classifies as a disability.
For more information on National Disability Awareness Week, email [email protected]