Disability awareness events planned

With the highest number of disabled students ever enrolled this year, the University has planned an array of events next month to prompt discussion about issues faced by disabled members of the Yale community.

The number of disabled students has increased from 125 during the 2000-’01 academic year to 554 both this year and last year, said Judy York, director of the Resource Office on Disabilities. The events, which are scheduled to coincide with National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month in October, include a Berkeley College Master’s Tea, exhibitions across campus and seminars covering different aspects of accommodating disabilities.

“Our hope is that it’s a subtle beginning to conversation,” said Deborah Stanley-McAulay, chief of diversity and head of the Education, Awareness and Publicity Subcommittee in the Provost’s Office, which is organizing the events. “The conversation about disabilities is personal, so we want to start it on a personal level.”

York said the number of disabled students is rising at universities across the country, in part because more disabled people are able to leave their hometowns to attend college in this “mobile society.” By spreading awareness about disabled members of the Yale community, the events are designed to encourage students and employees to become more accepting and accommodating for people with both visible and undetectable disabilities.

A majority of buildings on campus are accessible to disabled people, especially after renovations in recent years, but many “nooks and crannies” on campus still are not. York said she hopes the events will alert the student body to the challenges that disabled students face.

“We can move classes to accessible locations, but when students organize gatherings, I want them to consider wheelchair students in selecting location,” she said. “We want students to be more aware of persons with disabilities and to make positive choices accordingly,.”

As part of the month-long awareness campaign, exhibitions in buildings and courtyards will display alternative keyboards, foot pedals, crutches, magnifying glasses and other devices used by disabled persons living on campus. Also, a van will be parked outside of Sterling Memorial Library that students can attempt to board in a wheelchair to gain an understanding the daily difficulties disabled students encounter.

Angela Crowley, chair of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Resources for Students and Employees with Disabilities, said the committee has been working extensively in recent years to improve transportation accessibility, such as on shuttles and buses.

The Berkeley Master’s Tea will feature Matan Koch ’02, who attended Yale in a wheelchair and has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Council on Disabilities. Stanley-McAulay said she expects the tea will serve to “build awareness on political and humanistic levels of the value of individuals with disabilities.”

Another event will allow students to meet with information technology specialists to learn how to design websites that are easily accessible to people with certain disabilities.

The Education, Awareness and Publicity Subcommittee, which is organizing the events, reports to the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Resources for Students and Employees.

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