ISU students shift focus to their abilities

Tracy Deutmeyer

Organizers say it is designed to show what they can do — instead of what they can’t do.

“Awareness of Disabilities Days” began on Monday and will continue throughout the week to show Iowa State what abilities students with disabilities possess. The week-long event is sponsored by the People Understanding Disabilities (PUD), a student group that “promotes the awareness of disabilities” on campus.

“So often people focus on what students with disabilities can’t do — but this is a chance to show people what they can do,” said Joyce Packwood, coordinator of disability resources.

Held every spring, the “Awareness of Disabilities Days” kicked off on Monday with a reception and a speech by ISU alumnus Marlyn Ashland, whose artwork is on display in Parks Library throughout April.

A 1989 graduate of ISU, Ashland was injured in a high school football game in 1962. Damage to the left side of his brain left him with impaired speech and limited use of his right arm and right leg.

Ashland has been asked three times to copy the works of Monet in Chicago. Only about 20-25 people are given the opportunity to copy the works of Monet each year.

David White, vice president of PUD, said if people knew what students with disabilities had to go through, they may think their own problems aren’t so bad.

“It’s an exercise of empathy,” he said.

A panel discussion of students with disabilities will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Oak Room of the Memorial Union.

White said students with cerebral palsy and quadriplegics will talk about the changes they had to make when they were struck with a disability.

Thursday at noon in Room 144 of the Durham Center, Ron Grooms, a systems analyst at the Computation Center, and Clay Gurganus, an enrollment service adviser, will talk about assistive technologies, including special keyboards and computers with voice activation devices.

“They will present devices that are more user-friendly for students with disabilities,” White said.

Also on Thursday at noon, Olan Farnall, professor of journalism and mass communication, will speak in Room 236 of the Union about how people with disabilities are portrayed in advertising and how products are marketed.