Disability Awareness Week events bring visibility to disabilities


Alexandra Kelly/Iowa State Daily

Emily Blobaum, then-assistant visuals editor at the Daily, participates in the “Step Into My World” demonstration with help from Lauren Berglund, then-sophomore in child, adult and family services, on Oct. 7, 2016. “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.

Isabel Gebers

Invisible disability is a term describing people with disabilities that aren’t visible or known by others.

Invisible disabilities and visible disabilities are being openly discussed as part of Disability Awareness Week. Students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to gain more understanding about living with a disability.

“Over 2,000 students on campus [have disabilities] and most of them are invisible disabilities,” said Wendy Stevenson, assistant director for student accessibility services and advisor for the Alliance for Disability Awareness (ADA). 

Accessible Game Night was hosted on Monday in the Carver Hall lobby, with groups such as Chess Club, Guild of Board Gamers and Role Players there to teach others how to play.

Carver Hall lobby was picked for its easy ground floor access and the game night included games like Cards Against Humanity with braille on the deck to ensure accessibility for all. 

“We like to teach people how to play board games,” said Kendra Sears, senior in accounting and a member of the Guild of Board Gamers and Role Players. “Our [guild’s] whole thing is teaching people how to play board games. So if we can make it accessible, why not?” 

Sundar Shivraj, freshman in computer science, found Accessible Game Night to be a way not only to meet new people but also to watch different styles of playing chess.

“It kind of brings people together that have a similar mindset,” Shivrah said. “We’re all here to have fun and learn the game of chess and it’s kind of interesting to watch every game, because every game is unique and different and people have different backgrounds when it comes to chess.”

Being exposed to different backgrounds and disabilities was a major part of Tuesday’s events, which included two speakers: Judy Heumann, an internationally recognized disability rights activist, and Trevor Smith, who gave a lecture titled “My Journey with Tourette’s.” 

Heumann’s lecture explained the history behind passing laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities and the issues that still need to be addressed.

“She [Heumann] mentioned that a lot of accessibility issues were people just able-bodied not considering simple things like an entrance to a building,” said Jamie Niman, an accessibility coordinator for the Dean of Students Office, after Heumann’s lecture. “Now we have government mandated things and that’s wonderful, but the work isn’t done by any means. As is with any kind of area where there is discrimination, there can always be more work done. I think it’s important that we include disability in any talks about intersectionality or diversity and understanding that disability looks different for everyone.”

Holli Wilson, a junior in biology, said her range of disabilities makes others treat her as if her disabilities are all she is.

“When I’m on campus, I really stick out because of my walker and also my service dog, so I get a lot of stares or questions,” Wilson said. “That can be very uncomfortable, and I hope that other students can learn that I’m another student, and even though this is a huge part of my life, that’s not all of my life. I’m just a student as well.” 

Students had an opportunity to chat with others who have disabilities, eat free ice cream and make buttons at the ADA Ice Cream Social and Scholarship presentation Wednesday. 

“I feel like it’s an interesting event that’s bringing everyone together and it’s low key,” said Margaret Graves, freshman in open option, “It’s just something fun.”

Graves chose to come to the ice cream social to meet students with disabilities as well as have fun.

Stevenson said she was “extremely pleased with the attendance.”

“I think most of the people that attended are not even our students,” Stevenson said. 

The overall goals of Disability Awareness Week include increasing awareness, understanding and inclusion.

“The more awareness we can bring to other students, faculty and staff to help them gain some insight of what it’s like for life for a person with a disability, the more they can be inclusive in everything that they do,” Stevenson said.

Disability Awareness Week ends on Friday. For more information about the events go to https://sas.dso.iastate.edu/mission/disability-awareness.