The rehabilitation counseling department brought awareness of the ability that people with disabilities have with “Embracing the Difference: The Ability Event” April 13 in the Atwood Memorial Center Ballroom.
The event was made up of experiential learning stations led by people with disabilities where participants experienced what it feels like to have that disability and how people with disabilities adapt or use adaptive equipment to live their lives successfully.
Stations were run by both students and community members and included: Cerebral palsy, vision loss, deaf and hard of hearing, autism, mental health disorders, attention deficit disorder and spinal cord injury.
The event is about creating opportunities, showing short cuts and realizing the only different between people is how they deal with situations, said Aaron Cross, a student who presented at the Ability Event.
“The expo’s emphasis is to create, display and utilize the successes we can have,” he said.
Much of what the rehabilitation counseling program does is focused on the vocational aspect of helping people with disabilities find jobs, but this event is different. It gaves students a chance to interact with people with disabilities in a new way where the people with disabilities answered questions about their situation that people are usually afraid to ask, said Rachel Briant, rehabilitation counseling student and Ability Event logistics coordinator.
“It dispels any stigma that they may have had previously because it gives you the chance to talk to them and ask them questions,” she said. “… It really gives students the opportunity to see them in a completely different light for the rest of their lives.”
Amy Hebert Knopf, rehabilitation counseling assistant professor, agrees.
“The Ability Event has changed who we are as a program, changed our students,” she said. “I believe it has helped us to focus on sort of the broader global issues surrounding the issue of acceptance and equality for persons who have a disability.”
The Ability Event was followed by the School of Health and Human Services’ Spring Colloquium. Cross, who is a three time Paralympian, gave the colloquium address “Focus on Your Target.”