Experience and Join the Conversation with Disability Awareness Week


El Mayer, then-sophomore in business management, begins to walk using a cane and mask to eliminate her vision. Step Into My World was put on by the Alliance for Disability Awareness Club and the Student Disability Resource Center. The event was part of Disability Awareness Week in 2016. 

Grace Ekema

This week is Disability Awareness Week, and Iowa State will be hosting events to celebrate all week. The events will take place Tuesday through Friday.

Laura Wiederholt, president of the Alliance for Disability Awareness on campus, is looking forward to all of the events with high hopes since bringing the organization back to campus her sophomore year. 

“The events have now been under my watch,” said Wiederholt about her role in the organization. 

Even with the organization disappearing for a short while in 2013, Iowa State has hosted similar events since the 1980s. Disability coordinator Wendy Stevenson has access to older flyers and schedules of past disability events held on campus that showcase the universities past involvement. 

“It used to be called the Handicap Awareness Days,” Stevenson said about the earliest flyer she had access to from 1982. 

Regardless of the name change and breaks in the years, Disability Awareness Week is ready to connect with students in as many ways as possible.

Wiederholt said she is looking forward to connecting with students who may not know a lot about disabilities and offering a safe opportunity to ask questions about them. 

“I think it’s something that is incredibly important to teach people about because normalizing disability makes it not something that’s even a concern,” Wiederholt said. “If we were to teach people why accessibility is important and that people with disabilities aren’t really much different than anyone else, then I think it’ll be much less of an issue.” 

October is also Disability History Month, bringing awareness to not only Iowa State’s campus, but to the nation when it comes to talking about disabilities. 

“It’s about being open and honest about your disability,” Wiederholt said. “There’s not an open conversation about disabilities.”

This willingness to be open is what she hopes will become a base for not only this week on our campus, but to everyone so conversations can be conducted in a positive way.

The conversation begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Campanile Room in the Memorial Union with the student panel called “So Like, Can You Do It?” This panel gives the opportunity for the audience to ask students questions on disability and sexuality. Wiederholt is especially excited for this event because of the opportunity for the audience to ask questions anonymously. 

“Most people’s concern that I have heard is that they don’t want to raise their hand to ask a question, but there will be an anonymous way to ask questions,” Wiederholt said.

On Wednesday, there will be an ice cream social in the Student Services Building for students to come and enjoy ice cream with the ADA. On Thursday, Iowa State will be hosting the Iowa’s Disability Awareness Summit at Reiman Gardens from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Student Disability Resources will be present at the summit, and conversations on higher education will also be had in the same place. Both Wiederholt and Stevenson are excited for the summit’s keynote speaker, former Sen. Tom Harkin.

Lastly, the event “Step Into My World” will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday at Parks Library. In this event, students have the opportunity to maneuver the building using a mobility assistance device such as a wheelchair or a cane.

“Our goal is to really just show people that it’s not scary,” Wiederholt said. “Also, it’ll bring to the forefront of your mind some of the challenges regarding accessibility at Iowa State.”

The week of activities is meant to bring the campus together for an open conversation on disabilities, but it is also meant to introduce new students to the ADA.

“We aren’t ashamed of who we are,” Wiederholt said. “We are able to come together and have a consistent message and be able to talk about our life experiences. And hopefully that will continue to let them come forward and become involved.

To the new students without disabilities, Wiederholt hopes to teach them about what it means to have a disability.

“It’s important to show people that this is a part of life and that disability doesn’t discriminate,” she states.

For more information on these events, visit the Disability Awareness Week section on the Student Disability Resources page. 

 If you are unable to attend any of the events this week and still have questions, contact Laura Wiederholt president of the ADA on campus.