Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) is hosting Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month with events throughout October to further the conversation surrounding disabilities, SSD assistant director Emily Shryock said.
According to the SSD website, the events range from an adapted sports night with Recreational Sports, where participants can try out activities like wheelchair basketball, to disABILITY Advocate trainings, which hosts conversations on disability, accessibility and inclusion.
Shryock said the number of students using accommodations from SSD increases by 10% each year, but this statistic only represents a portion of the students with disabilities at UT. She said not all students with disabilities want or need accommodations, so everyone should use these events to help make everyone’s experience at UT accessible and inclusive.
“October is a time where we specifically focus on (students with disabilities) and provide all these different events in hopes that people might come and engage and maybe learn or think about navigating our campus … in a different way than they’ve considered before,” Shryock said.
SSD is partnering with the disABILITY Advocacy Student Coalition, a organization that raises awareness of disability and accessibility, for Disability Fest, the coalition’s president Emeline Lakrout said. She said the festival is an event focused on showing how a person with a disability adapts to certain situations.
The coalition will provide demonstrations, such as navigating a wheelchair through an obstacle course and interacting with service dogs, followed by a debrief from a student who uses those accomodations, marketing senior Lakrout said.
Lakrout said she has noticed people with and without disabilities can be uncomfortable discussing disabilities in general. She said starting the conversation is as simple as attending events run by people with disabilities.
“We don’t bite,” Lakrout said. “Most people, especially at awareness events, are absolutely fine answering questions and educating. The purpose is not to get mad at people who don’t know. It’s all about educating in a really fun and positive way.”
The coalition’s treasurer Caroline Graves said she is most excited for the Disability as Diversity Panel Discussion. She said people tend to address disability more through accommodations than as a personal identity.
“I feel like people think less of disability as an identity and how that kind of impacts disabled people’s lives and how that identity intersects with other identities people may have,” said Graves, a government and public relations senior.