(Dis)ability Awareness Week helps students discuss and celebrate differences

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COLUMBIA — Columbia College kicks off its (Dis)ability Awareness Week Monday to give students a chance to openly discuss disabilities and mental health. 

A set of posters created by students that highlight disabilities will be displayed throughout the week in the student commons. 

"It'll be informational, but more focused on the abilities that others have," said Teresa Vandover, associate professor at Columbia College. "One can be disabled, but that's not the part of them that we want to shine through."

The week continues on with a discussion on disability, class presentations on disabilities and goalball, a paralymic sporting events for blind athletes. 

Kimberly Chatman, a student at Columbia College, believes being open and honest about mental health on college campuses lets students know they're not alone.

"You can still get an education, as long as you get that illness treated and take medicine," Chatman said. 

Vandover said some of the posters on display will focus on the six pillars of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), specialized instruction for individuals with disabilities, and celebrities who have battled through their mental and physical disabilities to become successful.

"All of us have differences," Vandover said. "It's a broad continuum from those who are excelling in one area or those who are disabled in one area. We want to recognize that everyone is a person first."