Jordyn Kehle/The AS Review
The Associated Students Disability Outreach Center is hosting Western’s fourth annual Disability Awareness Week from April 18 to 22 in the hope of creating more awareness of all disabilities.
According to DOC Coordinator Natalie Eitel, a disability is anything that limits an individual’s active participation in their environment. Disabilities are not only physical; they are commonly connected to mental health, how we process emotions or the ways we learn. However, according to Eitel, having a physical or mental condition does not necessarily mean that a disability also exists.
Throughout the week, the DOC will host five major events, which will be open to the public and free of charge. Each event will focus on a different aspect of disability to encourage faculty, student and staff awareness on campus and in the community.
“We really want students to take away a better understanding of disability and how it affects us as social creatures every day,” Eitel said.
In the past, themes have been chosen to suggest an overall goal or concept for the weeklong event series. This year’s theme is “Peeling Back the Layers.”
“We came to this theme because it describes what we want each event to do: peel back the social walls we put up every day and get to the meat and potatoes of who we really are,” Eitel said.
The first event to kick-off the week will be a Resource Fair on Tuesday, April 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room. Sixteen organizations, including Western’s disAbility Resources for Students, Lummi Vocational Services, and United Blind of Whatcom County will be joining the DOC to offer information about available resources and support on campus and in the community for people with disabilities. The event will also have free food.
Public speaker and author Kathie Snow will also be speaking on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Fairhaven Auditorium. Since her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy 22 years ago, Snow has been writing, consulting and speaking publicly about disability. Her presentation will explore disability as a natural characteristic of being human, and the potential of speaking to people’s strengths and abilities rather than their disabilities.
From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20 in VU 464, the AS Social Issues Resource Center will be hosting the “Intersections of Disability Workshop.” The workshop will guide through a deeper look at the intersections of identity, including disability.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 in the Underground Coffeehouse, musical therapy group Out of the Ashes will be performing. Founded by Western alumnus Jon Dalgran, the group hosts local performances as a form of musical therapy. Musical therapy can serve as a creative outlet or a healing tool for those who enjoy listening to and making music.
“Most people aren’t aware that musical therapy even exists, let alone that it can become a band,” said DOC Assistant Coordinator Brandi Ball. “I’m definitely most excited about that concert.”
The events will wrap up on Friday, April 22, with a Communication Panel from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Environmental Studies Building 313. A variety of speakers including Dr. Tara Perry and others will be present to bring as much information and insight as possible to the world of communication disabilities.
“A lot of people are nervous talking to people with disabilities or about disabilities, so it will be really nice to educate people when it’s okay to ask something or maybe when it’s not okay to ask something,” Ball said.
According to Eitel, all events during Disability Awareness Week have been designed to be inclusive of all populations on campus, as well as enlightening and enjoyable for all who attend.
“I see disability as something that is still kind of invisible on our campus, it’s not necessarily talked about as much as other identities,” said Anna Talvi-Blick, a counselor from Western’s disAbility Resources for Students. “I think the great thing about DAW is that it brings the conversation of disability to the forefront. It really makes it more visible.”