"Celebrate Ability" Week Raises Awareness
COLUMBIA - Students and staff at MU spent Wednesday working to raise awareness about disabilities around campus. This marks the first time MU has had such a week, and it falls on the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The week kicked off Monday with a wheelchair basketball open house and an adaptive golf demonstration. Tuesday included another look at adaptive sports as well as a seminar intended to spur discussion about disabilities and diversity on campus. "We wanted to really include some fun events," said event chairman Troy Balthazor, "and to show what people can do and also underscore that disability is the one minority group that anyone can join at any time."
Though this is the first time it's ever been done at MU, the idea isn't a new one. "This idea was just sort of sitting out there, and a group of us decided to try to get it off the ground," Balthazor said. While raising awareness is an important goal, Balthazor doesn't want the focus to be on disabilities. "We're always raising awareness, but not of disability. Hopefully of ability."
MU student Gretchen Maune knows both sides of the coin. She's used the same set of eyes for all her life, but four years ago, what those eyes saw changed drastically. A genetic disorder took Maune's vision during her senior year at Mizzou. Since then, she's realized a lot about the MU community as it applies to students with disabilities. "This is the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act and things still need to get better," Maune said. One thing that's really affected Maune, who got her bachelor's degree in English, is the library. "I'm a huge nerd," she said. "I used to spend hours in the library just reading books and there's no braille books in the library and there's no audio books in the library."Maune hopes this week raises awareness to hopefully help change all that. "Having this when there's always been Greek Week and Arts and Sciences Week and all of these other weeks, now to have Celebrate Abilities Week, a week for students with disabilities, I think it means a lot. It shows 'Hey, we're here.'"
The week's events run through Friday. Those involved are planning on it being an annual event.