Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Activities and presentations continue Disability Awareness Week

By Courtney Westlake

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The second day of UIS' 11th annual Disability Awareness Week was full of presenters, a movie showing of "Kiss My Wheels" in Brookens Auditorium in the evening and a fun and insightful event called Color Me Blind in the afternoon.

In the morning, guest speaker Carol Schaefer discussed the topic of "Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome: A Family Affair." Schaefer is the mother of a UIS student with Asperger's Syndrome. She talked about the challenges she and other families have faced, specifically within the educational system, and the efforts and rewards of helping her daughter succeed.

"All I can say is find a group, find support, talk to people," Schaefer said. "Trust your instincts. With doctors and educators, find one you like and can believe in."

In the afternoon, Suzanne Woods, director of Disability Services at UIS, led a session called "How to Be Assertive without Being Aggressive." Woods, who has a 29-year-old son with several disabilities, discussed advocacy and bringing about necessary change.

"We all have a voice and need to use our voice, and we have to make changes that will impact everyone," Woods said. "You need to be assertive without being aggressive; you need to learn what battles to pick."

And in the Lincoln Residence Hall lounge at 3 p.m., Color Me Blind allowed participants a first-hand perspective into the life of someone who is blind or has vision impairments. The activity gave participants an opportunity to experience art on an entirely different level by envisioning a subject, then painting it without physically seeing.

"We have blindfolds, and you have to remember the different paint colors that you are using and then paint whatever you're thinking of," said Chrisa Potthast, disability services specialist in the Office of Disability Services at UIS. "It's an experience in itself, and it's very fun. And it's creating awareness for our office on campus and for our disability services."

A similar event, called Model Me Blind, will be held Thursday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m., also in the Lincoln Residence Hall lounge.

"You'll basically have to sculpt something blind-folded," Potthast said. "We're just raising awareness at how hard it is to paint or model or just do everyday things with a disability."

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