Alex Bacon/The AS Review
As you walk through campus and look at the people that cross your path, you may see hundreds of different faces. In those momentary glances, it is nearly impossible to tell who has a disability and who does not unless there’s a visible indicator such as a wheelchair or crutches. But during Disability Awareness Week, the AS club Students for Disability Awareness (SDA) is hoping to increase your awareness about all disabilities, both visible and invisible.
“Disability Awareness Week is where the campus can come together and learn about disability culture and become more aware of issues surrounding disabilities,” SDA President and co-founder Daman Wandke said.
SDA’s third annual Disability Awareness Week will be held from Sunday, April 11 to Friday, April 16. Throughout the week, there will be 12 events to promote understanding of people with disabilities, break down stereotypes and offer resources for students, faculty, staff and members of the community with and without disabilities. All events are free.
This year’s theme is “Intersections” which, according to Brittany Otter, co-founder of SDA and Disability Awareness Week coordinator, is based off of the stereotype that disability affects just one race and gender. She said the most common image that comes to mind when people think about disabilities is a straight white male in a wheelchair.
According to Otter, the goal this year is to create a non-image of disability, because it’s the only way to incorporate everyone who has disabilities.
Though many of the events are informational, Otter said they’re not supposed to feel like being in class. The events are supposed to be fun, engaging and educational.
The week opened Sunday night with a film called “Music Within,” which will also be shown Monday night at 7 and 9 p.m. in Viking Union 552. “Music Within” is the true story of Richard Pimentel, a soldier who returns from the Vietnam War with impaired hearing. Pimentel finds meaning in life by working on behalf of Americans with disabilities. The film is cosponsored by ASP Films and the AS Social Issues Resource Center (SIRC).
A resource fair will be held from noon to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 in the VU Multipurpose room. There will be 18 organizations tabling, including some organizations from around campus. There will be door prizes, candy and information about resources for people with disabilities. Some of the organizations will be offering information about internship opportunities.
From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14 in Red Square, Bellevue Healthcare is cosponsoring wheelchair races. Students can win prizes from the AS Bookstore.
From noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 in VU 565, there will be a workshop on the differences between medical and social disability and how it affects how disability is perceived in society. The workshop will be led by Dan Teachman from the Center for disAbility Studies and Universal Access at Eastern Washington University.
Also on Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in VU 565 there will be a discussion about disabilities in the media. The movie “Avatar” and television show “Glee” will be discussed through an analytical lens.
Other events include workshops on defining disability; disabilities, sex, relationships and gender; cupcake decorating; and the opportunity to experience what it might be like to have a disability. For more information on event dates and times, see the AS Review events calendar.
If students are interested in learning about disabilities but are short on time, the event not to miss, according to Otter and Wandke, is the “Is Disability a Culture?” panel discussion, which is cosponsored by the SIRC.
The panel will discuss disability and how it intersects with gender, race, age, class and sexuality, as well as question whether or not there is a culture surrounding disability, as there are so many variations of disabilities. A group of young women of color with disabilities from Chicago called the “Empowered FeFes” will be on the panel.
It’s important to remember that what the panelists say may not be true for others with the same or similar disabilities because every person is different, Otter said.
In all, there will be 12 events, run by about 70 volunteers. Not all volunteers are Western students. According to Otter, about 10 volunteers are from Squalicum High School.
“It’s amazing how passionate our volunteers are,” Otter said. “This is not just a student event, it’s a community event.”
The idea behind Disability Awareness Week is to promote understanding of those people in the community that have disabilities, Otter said.
“I hope students will be able to interact with people with disabilities just like they would anyone else,” Wandke said. “It will be important when they need to interact with people with disabilities in their careers.”
For more information about Disability Awareness Week, or Students for Disability Awareness, visit wwwsda.org.