Disability Awareness Week for fall semester 2018 is now underway at Salt Lake Community College.
Coordinated by the Disability Resource Center, the week-long affair is marked by daily events that highlight the experiences of people living with disabilities and are aimed to remind students and faculty alike that disabilities are an ordinary part of life. This year’s theme is disability and the arts. The week’s events revolve around the connection between the two subjects and the value of art to relay one’s experience with disability.
“Art touches people’s lives differently than, let’s say, a standard curriculum. Music can speak a thousand words. Laughter is the closest point between one human being and another,” says Faye Edebiri, interim director of the Disability Resource Center. “I think being able to look at the arts allows us to have a little more insight into the fact that the students are more than just a person with a disability, they’re a person and they just happen to have a disability.”
The Disability Resource Center is SLCC’s premier department for ensuring accessibility on campus for students with disabilities. They are responsible for providing accommodations for students, whether that be in the form of assistive software, testing accommodations, or sign-language interpreters. They serve between 2,200 and 2,500 students.
“We are an open center; a friendly welcoming environment and we build really excellent rapport with the students and faculty that we serve. We want to reach as many people as we can, and we work closely with the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, with Academic Advising, with the Registrar’s Office,” says Edebiri. “It takes a village to help support all of the different students and faculty that we’re working with and we appreciate the opportunities to build connections and work together as we educate and help others access the different programs, events and opportunities that we have.”
Assistive Technology Fair
The center hosting a variety of events to support their mission, including the Assistive Technology Fair, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at South City Campus. This fair will have over 20 vendors and is meant to showcase technology that aids people with disabilities.
“If you want some pizza and to come and check out the different updated technology with some hands-on experience, this is the place to come and do it,” says Edebiri.
Assistive technology plays an important role in facilitating accessibility, especially in an academic setting. In a similar way that new technology has increasingly changed our economy (through digital automation), transportation (through ride-sharing apps) and even the way we connect with each other (through social media), the ability to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities has increasingly changed as technology does.
“An assistive technology that has really helped just everybody is the smart pen. It’s a digital recorder where you can automatically upload notes with ease. With just having an app on your phone and then these smart pens and notebooks to be able to take notes and go back and review and listen to the instructor’s notes as well,” says Edebiri. “Talk-to-text has also become prevalent in a whole bunch of different venues from talking with Siri to taking notes and converting them in the classroom.”
Local advocates to share their stories
Stephanie Mathis, the Executive Director of the Sego Lily Center for the Abused Deaf, will talk about her passion for dancing and how being deaf hasn’t prevented her from artistically expressing herself. The event is scheduled for Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Student Event Center at Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
Finally, Cara Jean Means, the artist behind the “GRIP: Conversational Portraits on Mental Health” exhibit currently on display at South City Campus will discuss her series of paintings in an artist talk. The talk will be held at noon Thursday in the screening room at South City Campus.
Removing the stigma
The overall goal of Disability Awareness Week is to change the perception of what it means to live with a disability and further the project of changing the realities of living with one as well. This has been slowly but steadily happening throughout the years as Interim Director Edebiri can attest:
“With the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was revised in 1990 and then again in 2008, there were great advancements for inclusion and helping remove the stigma for people with hidden disabilities such as mental health disorders or learning disabilities. There’s nothing wrong with a person with a disability and they don’t need to be fixed. It’s just a natural part of life and people just learn differently.”
Students can visit the Disability Resource Center at the Taylorsville Redwood, South City or Jordan campuses if they have any questions about their services.