The Access & disABILITY Alliance is looking for some allies.
The organization, which is a network of faculty, staff and students who promote disability awareness, is holding its first public training session on Thursday, Feb. 28.
The training session strives to shape student, faculty and staff perspectives by
- Focusing on ability versus disability
- Demonstrating similarities rather than differences
- Identifying personal stereotypes, myths and beliefs that shape personal perceptions
- Demonstrating appropriate language and terminology for discussing disabilities and resources
- Offering an authentic view into the lives of students with disabilities through a student panel
- Providing students, staff and faculty with an opportunity to discuss disability in a nonjudgmental and safe environment
- Allowing an open forum for questions and concerns working and interacting with individuals and disabilities.
Michael Lemus, a fourth-year psychology student, was one of 33 faculty, staff and students who took part in a pilot training session earlier this month. He says one reason he participated is that his fraternity’s philanthropy is focused on helping people with disabilities. The fraternity has a “rose girl” – someone who has the privilege of wearing the fraternity’s letters – with muscular dystrophy.
“She has served as a personal inspiration to help those with disabilities,” Lemus says. “She volunteers at a camp with kids that have muscular dystrophy and even gets us to volunteer with her.”
Kumagai, a fifth-year hospitality student who also attended the session, says it was helpful in addressing misconceptions and stereotypes about the disabled. For example, people who don’t know how to interact with people with disabilities tend to speak loudly and slow, as if disabled people cannot understand words or conversation, she says.
“It is very presumptuous to assume people with disabilities always need assistance, and in many ways it’s condescending,” Kumagai says. “I did become more comfortable with myself in terms of being able to approach people with disabilities without coming off as patronizing.”
Upon completion of the training session, participants have the opportunity to sign an Ability Ally pledge and receive an Ability Ally placard and button to display for all to see.
The training is made possible through a grant from Tri-Cities Mental Health.
Thursday’s training session is full, but the alliance will hold two training sessions during the spring quarter. Dates and other details will be posted in the coming weeks at http://dsa.cpp.edu/ada/abilityallytraining.asp. To receive email notification, contact Dawn Finley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo: Students learn about mobility aids at a Disability Awareness Month event in 2010.)