UMD advocates disability awareness throughout October

By Jamie Kerner

University of Maryland students, faculty and community members attended the last of the organized disability and accessibility events this past week as Disability Awareness Month came to an end.

Disability Awareness Month at the University of Maryland is recognized throughout the month of October and is filled with various events and forums sponsored by the President’s Commission on Disability Issues. The committee was first established in 1986 and works to advise the university’s President about issues concerning people with disabilities.

Throughout the month, the Commission, along with other campus departments and organizations, invited the University of Maryland community to join them at numerous organized events to discuss and raise awareness about disabilities.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 1.59.20 PM
The Disability Awareness Month event flyer, provided by the President’s Commission on Disability Issues

Sophomore communications major Ilana Margulis has a disability plan registered through the university’s Accessibility and Disability Service and is in full support of the Commission’s month of events.

“It’s important to be aware of students who have disabilities to make the campus an inclusive environment,” Margulis said. “People should become more educated about different kinds of disabilities.”

The first event of Disability Awareness Month was a Kickoff Party and a showing of the film “Margarita with a Strawon Oct. 6. Community members and students taking a course on disability in the community joined together to discuss the future of disability in America.

Other events throughout the month included panels of speakers, interactive workshops, yoga and a sports tournament.

Additionally, as part of Disability Awareness Month, campus coordinator for the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) held several sessions, both in person at the Career Center and via Webinar. The WRP recruitment and referral program works to connect employers throughout the nation with college students and recent graduates with disabilities and accommodations.

The last three events of Disability Awareness Month were held this past week.

The first of these three events was SHARK TANK on Oct. 25 in the Career Center, where attendees broke up into teams to solve real-world problems.

The following event was Disabled Heroes in Video Games on Oct. 26 in McKeldin Library. Disabled activist D’Arcee Neal led attendees through a discussion about disabled characters in video games and demonstrated how some of these games work to the crowd. In these games, the main characters have disabilities, such as blindness and psychosis, giving the player a glimpse of what it is like to have those impairments.

One particular game Neal demonstrated to attendees was “Perception”, which is played through the point of view of main character Cassie, who is blind. The player must navigate as Cassie using echolocation rather than vision.

“Though you are without sight does not mean that you cannot see,” Neal said, speaking about how the game demonstrates how blind people are able to successfully navigate through their surroundings despite their visual impairment.

PCDI Town Hall: Fostering a Community of Disability at UMD was the last event of Disability Awareness Month on Oct. 27 in the Edward St. John Learning Center. Students, faculty, staff, family and friends were invited to join a town hall discussion about how to flourish and bolster a community of disability at the university.

“It’s important to discuss disabilities and create awareness because awareness helps us understand people with disabilities better and understand how we are all equal,” senior family science major Jessica Schoen said. “I think that in order to create a more respectful, inclusive and accessible environment we should respect the wishes of people with disabilities and listen to them about what they need to have such an environment.”

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