Events Promote Disability Awareness, Fairness
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow up disabled?
With October being National Disability Awareness Month, an Alma College initiative titled Project:Able! will offer a number of activities to spread awareness and advocate for equal treatment of people with disabilities.
“Folks labeled disabled are among the largest and most ignored minority,” says Monica Rentfrow ’08, who is helping organize and promote disability awareness events.
“All of the events during Project:Able! week are unique opportunities to broaden our often too simplistic view of American society,” says Rentfrow. “I foresee this week being a fun learning experience, and I hope all would consider participating.”
Events kick off with keynote speaker Johnnie Tuitel at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24th in the Heritage Center. Tuitel, a national speaker for disability awareness, shares his experiences growing up with cerebral palsy and being in a wheelchair, inspiring audiences and relieving the awkwardness that often arises regarding disabilities. Admission is free and open to the public.
Tuitel was the first disabled student legally mainstreamed into the public school system in Michigan, and he didn’t stop there. After high school, Tuitel attended and received a bachelor’s degree from Hope College. He co-founded Alternatives in Motion, a non-profit organization that provides wheelchairs free of charge to those in need. He also authored a series of mystery/adventure books whose main character is disabled.
“We wanted to bring someone to campus who could help unite the students, community and resources to make a difference,” says Alisa Dean, a member of Project:Able! and Service House advisor. “We really believe that Tuitel will affect and inspire everyone.”
The week continues with The David Garcia Project (DGP), which offers experiential disability awareness training, at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26th in Jones Auditorium at Alma College. Due to the hands-on, personal approach, participation is necessarily limited. Anyone wishing to get involved with this DGP training session should contact Dean at email@example.com to reserve a spot.
DGP is a disabilities awareness program in which participants simulate everyday activities with different disabilities. Each facilitated simulation includes various interactive models designed to provide participants with an accurate understanding of the challenges of living with various disabilities. Through post-simulation discussion and educational models, the DGP focuses on creating empathy – not sympathy – for disabled persons. Participants are encouraged to use the DGP experience as a springboard for further advocacy for the rights of disabled persons.
Activities wrap up on Saturday, Oct. 27th, which is National Make a Difference Day. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a Special Olympics Poly-hockey Tournament in the Stone Recreation Center sponsored by the College’s Non-traditional Student Organization (NSO). Anyone who is interested in working a bake sale or donating their time by refereeing or helping in another way should contact NSO.
“Even if people are unable to work, if they could just show up to cheer on the athletes, it would be wonderful and motivating,” says Anne Ritz, Service Learning Coordinator.
Project:Able! is a collaboration between the College’s Education department, Service Learning House, Provost Office, Non-traditional Student Organization and students, with additional help and involvement from Alma Middle School, the Pine Avenue Elementary School, and the Explore After School program that works to spread awareness of and advocate for equal treatment for people with disabilities.
Posted: Mon, October 15th, 2007 at 12:31AM