Disability Awareness Week began Tuesday, May 14, 2013, raising awareness of the experience of students at Western living with disabilities. Inspiring events continued for four days; including two motivational speakers and chances for able-bodied students to try a disability simulation called The Wheelchair Experience.
Dr. Perry’s Interpersonal Communication students participated as a part of their curriculum for the course.
“This is a topic we do not discuss often,” Perry said. “It’s not in our textbooks.”
Perry has presented and written a research paper on students with disabilities in higher education.
Four of Perry’s students volunteered to spend a day in a wheelchair as part of The Wheelchair Experience.
“It was so eye-opening. I gained appreciation that I didn’t even know I was missing,” Joe Simpson, a junior at Western, said. “I’m hoping to be an advocate in the future.”
The Wheelchair experience has brought attention to accessibility issues on campus. It has given momentum for changes to take place.
Associated Students Disability Outreach Coordinator, Ariel Brownstein, is a student who took a major role in launching Disability Awareness Week.
“I think putting people in wheelchairs was the most effective way of showing them the social stigma associated with disabilities and the physical barriers on campus,” Brownstein said in an email.
It is common for able-bodied students to want to help those with disabilities, to try and ease their challenges by holding a door open or pointing in the right direction.
“We don’t want anyone to come away feeling sorry for students with disabilities,” Brownstein said. “But understanding disability more comprehensively and acknowledging that they can have a profound impact on others by changing the way they act and becoming disability advocates.”
Students with disabilities take pride in being able to do things on their own, like anyone else.
“This group has done a lot to have their voices heard and experiences related to other minorities who have been silenced,” Perry said.
Written By: Annika Wolters, Student Leader, Communication Studies and Journalism Major
Image courtesy of Teerapun / FreeDigitalPhotos.net