Looking back at Disability Awareness Week


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

Former Sen. Tom Harkin speaks at the Regent Disability Awareness Summit on Oct. 19, 2017. Harkin was a pioneer in creating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990. 

Grace Ekema

The Alliance for Disability Awareness (ADA) put together a week full of activities to recognize Disability Awareness Week on campus last week. 

Events started Tuesday and lasted until Friday, and were aimed at spreading more awareness about different disabilities and accessibility throughout the campus. With all of the events that were held this last week, awareness and education is always the ADA’s goal.

“The ADA definitely did reach their goal. I think we were very public,” said Wendy Stevenson, Iowa State’s disability coordinator.  

The panel “So Like, Can You Do It?” was a student-run discussion where students not only discussed disability but also how it relates to sexuality. This was the first time that the panel also discussed sexuality.

“The students wanted to do it since a lot of people think if you have a disability that you’re asexual, and they wanted to break that myth,” Stevenson said.

The student panel ranged from relationships to just how their disability may or may not affect their sex life. The panel gave both panelists and participants the chance to ask and answer questions both publicly and anonymously. 

Wednesday’s ice cream social was meant to bring students in to connect with members of the ADA over games and treats. 

The 2017 Regent Disability Awareness Summit took place at Reiman Gardens Thursday, and brought together Iowa’s three regent universities- University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa. Stevenson compared it to being set up like a conference with various speakers and sessions for attendants to take part in. 

“It really shows how we collaborate with other universities and the purpose is to let each of the other regent universities know what else we are doing,” Stevenson said. 

Brittni Wendling, a public relations and leadership studies major and secretary for the ADA also gave a small speech about her experience on campus. The summit’s sessions ranged from focusing on invisible disabilities, service animals, navigating language, ASL, support for students with Autism, and accessibility in higher education. 

The main event of the summit was the keynote speaker, retired Sen. Tom Harkin. Harkin discussed why he has taken the steps that he has with the ADA and became very relatable to the audience with his personal stories

“He has an older brother that is deaf,” Stevenson said of Harkin and his stories. “He also had an experience working with someone with mobility issues.”

Stevenson also summarized some of his other stories he told ranging from demonstrations at the capital to other stories of people Harkin has met who have inspired him. A statistic Harkin mentioned was that 60 percent of people that have disabilities that want to work are unemployed. This statistic was the highest one that Harkin mentioned in his speech. 

Friday’s event, “Step Into My World” was held in Parks Library. Students had the chance to experience what it is like for those who have a disability to maneuver around building such as the library. Here, students would attempt to operate in a wheelchair or blindfolded with a cane.

“I think it was the best it has ever gone,” Stevenson said. In the past the event has taken place in areas where people are in a hurry and don’t have the time to stop by. Hosting the event in the library meant that students could participate in every aspect of the event. 

Stevenson commented that with more awareness, specific components of campus accessibility will be addressed when the time and the funds are available.

The ADA will continue to have more student panels and “Step Into My World” activities upon request.

If you are interested in having a panel or event, you can contact Wendy Stevenson or Laura Wiederholt, president of the ADA, to put an event together.