Raising Disability Awareness

The Disability and Assistive Technology Center, along with the Disability Advisory Council, will be hosting a series of seminars and presentations to increase awareness about disabilities.

Celebrate All Abilities is an October disability awareness program coinciding with National Disability Employment Awareness, which is also in the month of October.

The Disability and Assistive Technology Center provides almost 500 students on campus with special accommodations. One of their roles is to help make the campus more aware of what disabilities are about.

“If students have a disability and have documentation of their disability, then we meet with them and we identify what kinds of accommodations are going to best help them succeed,” said Jim Joque, the director of Disability Services.

The Disability Advisory Council is made up of faculty, staff and students. Joque is also part of this organization.

“We have representation of people with and without disabilities, and faculty and staff who might have some impact on disabilities,” Joque said. “That council puts together Celebrate All Abilities each year.”

Margaret Strong, the assistive technology coordinator, thinks that being able to host these events with St. Michaels is a great community teamwork effort that can bring more awareness to the community and campus about students with disabilities.

“Our campus does do a lot to support our students and our numbers show it with how many more we do support each year,” Strong said.

The first of the three events, the American Disability Act Workshop, will take place on Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. and again from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Paige Reed, of the UW-System General Counsel, will discuss the elements of disability laws and best practices.

“During the day, Paige Reed, one of our assistant lawyers, is coming to talk about the American Disabilities Act,” Joque said. “This is geared to students, faculty, staff, and anyone who’s interested in learning more of what ADA is all about and how they’ve impacted us here on campus.”

The second event, A Journey of Recovery, will be the same day from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in the Dreyfus University Center Laird Room.

The Committee of Portage County, along with Linea Johnson and Cinda Johnson, authors of “Perfect Chaos,” will be the presenters. The program will be in cooperation with Ministry Health Care and Mid-State Technical College, as well as UWSP’s Disability Advisory Council.

“During the evening program​we provide the space and some of the promotion to help Ministry, who brings in a National speaker,” Joque said. “This year we were very fortunate to get a mother-daughter team who have written a book called ‘Perfect Chaos’.”

The book is about a girl who has bipolar disorder and she describes how she copes and lives through events as well as her mother’s reactions to them.

“In the past, we’ve had different key note speakers and we’ve always had a really good turnout. Because Ministry also promotes it, it could be anywhere from 200-400 people,” Joque said. “Two years ago we had one on Asperger’s syndrome and we had 60 chairs set up. The room got so packed that we had maintenance come and actually tear the wall down because we had almost 200 people.”

The third event, called the Celebrate All Abilities Panel, will take place on Oct. 30 from 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. in the Dreyfus University Center Theater. It is for students with disabilities and their parents to hear about the challenges of having a disability while attending college. Some of the disabilities represented include Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, learning disabilities, mobility disabilities, and vision and hearing impairments.

“We have six students and two parents and we’re covering a wide range of disabilities,” Joque said. “It’s an hour long presentation and a half hour question and answer. What they’re going to do is basically tell the story of how their disability is impacted while attending the University, what kind of barriers they run into, and how they handle those barriers. Each one will have maybe seven minutes to give a brief presentation.”

Joque did this type of panel years ago at UW-La Crosse and said it was very insightful for students, faculty and staff to hear the testimonies coming from students with disabilities.

“I think it’s a great insight to share what students are going through when they are in school and on campus and what the parents have to try to do to help them and support them,” Strong said.

Strong believes that any event that allows people to become more aware and sensitive to these disabilities is important.

“I think that when these kinds of programs come to campus, it’s really important for awareness, especially the hidden disabilities, like the one that’s being done with St. Michaels about bipolar syndrome,” Strong said.

“I’m excited,” Joque said. “I think this is a real good opportunity for the campus community to learn more about people who have disabilities.”

Rachel Pukall

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