Why International Persons with Disabilities Day is important to Iowa State

International Persons with Disabilities Day is meant to celebrate and honor individuals with disabilities of all kinds.

Kaitlyn Richardson

President of Iowa State’s Alliance for Disability Awareness, Sydney Kelty, a senior in elementary education at Iowa State, is prepared to celebrate International Persons with Disabilities Day on Friday. Kelty said the Alliance has added to their usual weekly lunches in order to honor this day.

“We have decided to host a lunch-game hangout that is centered around the history of disability rights and advocacy. For example, we will play a ‘Disability Rights Jeopardy’ and discuss advocacy scenarios,” Kelty said.

Kelty said that a day like this is important for those with disabilities as well as the community because of how many people are affected by disabilities.

“On a larger scale, this day is a means of celebration and remembrance,” Kelty said. “We celebrate our achievements and our identities. We celebrate our hopes and dreams and most importantly, our disability.”

Beyond the concept of an international holiday, Kelty shared just what it means to identify as a person with disabilities, and the battle and emotion that comes along with it.

“It makes us who we are,” Kelty said. “We also remember those who have fought for our rights. We remember those who never gave up. We have come so far in history but we still have more areas to make improvements. National Day for Persons with Disabilities is everyday, it is an everyday battle for many people to fight for equal treatment and justice.”

Kelty also feels that this holiday is impactful and relevant for the Iowa State campus as a whole.

“I have heard from multiple peers with disabilities that they feel like they are being exhibited,” Kelty said. “They receive unkind looks and comments about their accommodations and disability. They can’t use their accommodations without being told they’re receiving preferential treatment or an unfair advantage.”

Kelty further says that there is action that could be taken as a campus to reduce the ongoing issue of discrimination against those with disabilites.

“I believe the Iowa State community needs to become more cognizant of how harmful their perceptions of disabilities are,” Kelty said. “I just really wish that everyone could be kind to one another. We are all going through things and have feelings. Putting someone down isn’t going to do any good, whether they have a disability or not.”

In general, International Persons with Disabilities day aligns with the mission of the Alliance for Disability Awareness, and Kelty’s mission herself.

“The mission of the Alliance for Disability Awareness is to advocate for accessibility and disability rights at Iowa State ,” Kelty said. “As the president, I believe I have two missions. Not only do I aim to advocate for myself and my peers with disabilities at Iowa State , but I aim to create a safe place and new opportunities for the members of ADA.”

Kelty shares that she feels the Alliance is beneficial for both those with disabilities and their peers, as it is an opportunity to educate yourself on the issue as well as build relationships.

“I have never met such a close-knitted group of hilarious and determined people,” Kelty said.

Last month, the Alliance faced the loss of a member making a holiday hit closer to home for members such as Kelty.

“I am dedicating my mission of disability advocacy and justice for disability rights to Drew DiDonato,” Kelty said. “Drew was a member of ADA who we lost to a tragic accident in November.”

Kelty goes on to say that DiDonato was admirable when it comes to advocating for disability awareness.

“Drew was a new member this year and he was so proud of his identity,” Kelty said. “He jumped at every opportunity to participate in any opportunity to raise awareness at Iowa State. I can only hope to be half the advocate and fighter he was.”

Overall, Kelty shares the importance of raising awareness of the issues that affect persons with disabilities and how that concept is exactly what keeps her going.

“A day like this raises awareness of the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of disability and how it affects people around the world,” Kelty said. “As an individual with a disability, it reminds me of what our community has accomplished to get where we are today. In addition, it motivates me to keep aiming for change. The fight for disability rights and equal treatment hasn’t ended and it may never.”

More information on the Alliance for Disability Awareness can be found here