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National Disability Awareness Week is underway at the University of Central Missouri

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The Office of Accessibility organized various events to honor National Disability Awareness Week at the University of Central Missouri.

The week has consisted of a then and now presentation Monday, a panel discussion on disabilities Tuesday and a meet and greet with THRIVE students Wednesday.

Disability awareness trivia will take place Thursday and a presentation on braille and technology that assists people with disabilities will take place Friday. Both events will take place in the Elliott Student Union.

Carlynn Westervelt, the graduate assistant in the Office of Accessibility Services, is in charge of the week’s events.

“It is an extremely important week for me and the students my office serves,” Westervelt said.

Westervelt said this week is crucial in allowing able-bodied students to see through the eyes of disabled students.

“I believe that disability awareness is important because it allows abled students to learn about the experiences of disabled students, and also gives our disabled students a chance to be an advocate for themselves as well as feel empowered as the capable students they are,” she said.

Barbara Mayfield, the director of Accessibility Services, is overseeing the week’s events.

“For many years I developed NDAW.  I’m grateful to have talented graduate assistants like Carlynn Westervelt to create and carry out the event,” she said.

Mayfield said the week’s events are directed toward building knowledge, public awareness, and advocacy for disability issues.

“Able students rarely realize that nearly 10 percent of their fellow students have some type of disability, and bringing awareness also brings tolerance and acceptance,” Westervelt said.

Casey Reed, the graduate assistant in the Office of Student Activities for diversity education, was in charge of the panel discussion that was held on Tuesday. Reed said a panel of four students talked about what it’s like going to UCM and living in our community with disabilities.

He also said decisions about accessibility services comes down to voting and the disabled student population doesn’t have the numbers most of the time.

“It’s about providing a platform to groups of people who wouldn’t get a platform based on the nature of the numbers,” Reed said. “There are more able-bodied students than students living with disabilities, so when it comes to voting, it leaves smaller groups of people whose needs are different than the majority without various things like infrastructure, policy or anything to help them.”

Mayfield said it’s important to inform students with disabilities that services are provided for them so they can have equal opportunity in their college education.

“Students, faculty and staff can be reminded that persons with disabilities are qualified as students and as future employees,” Mayfield said. “Eleven percent of a typical college student body are students with disabilities.”

Disability awareness trivia and the presentation on braille and technology are the final events of National Disability Awareness Week at UCM and they will be hosted in the Union Atrium.

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