MU Celebrates Ability Week

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COLUMBIA - The annual MU Celebrates Ability Week kicked off Monday. The events highlight the skills people with disabilities bring to Columbia and the MU campus.

Today graduate students offered their perspectives on disabilities at the MU Student Center. Four panelists -- Holly White, Allison Reinhart, Gina Leylan, and Amber Cheek -- discussed their own personal experiences with disabilities. These four women have also started three groups for students with disabilities at MU-- MUSE, MU Student Exceptions, Sight Club, and the Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society.

One point the students stressed was not all people with disabilities need others to take care of them. Reinhart, who uses a wheelchair, said help is always appreciated, but not to assume people in wheelchairs always need help. But, Reinhart did talk about the blizzard last winter in mid-Missouri. She said getting through multiple feet of snow was impossible in her wheelchair.

Leylan's disability is a little different than Reinhart's-- she is blind. Leylan has a genetic disease that caused her sight to deteriorate. She was legally blind at age 12. Leylan uses a pink and green cane to get around town.

The women said Columbia is a good place for people with disabilities because it is a largely pedestrian city. Curb cuts help bikers, walkers, and people using wheelchairs. It took a lot of hard work and advocacy to get the city to where it is now.

For the most part, people with disabilities are happy with the handicap-accessible MU campus. Although they think some of the elevators could be a little safer. Holly White, who also uses a wheelchair, said the elevators in Clark Hall are especially scary to ride. Both White and Reinhart said Memorial Union is out of the question for them because the stairs make it especially difficult to get inside.

For the schedule and more information about ability week, click here.