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Allies for Inclusion brings awareness of disabilities
“I do not have special needs. I am a person with a diagnosed learning disability.
I am not mentally retarded. I am a person with a developmental disability.
I am not handicapped. I am a person with a disability.
We are not normal. We are people without disabilities.”
Posters promoting “person first” language lined the wall of the Sunnen Lounge Wednesday, March 21, as part of Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit. The traveling exhibit, started by St. Louis University, promotes disability awareness through information and activities.
Community Director Megan Wetzel and Director of Operations & Student Affairs Katherine Krajcovic helped bring the exhibit to Webster.
Krajcovic said Wetzel, who is deaf, was already trying to bring the exhibit to Webster when Krajcovic was hired in Oct. 2011. Together, they found financial support for the exhibit from Dr. Paul Carney, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs.
“My purpose with this program was to make students more comfortable with this topic in conversation,” Wetzel said. “A lot of students want to know more, but they don’t feel comfortable asking.”
In addition to person first language, the exhibit also featured computer quizzes, statistics and an “I know someone” table — which allowed people to place a stone in boxes to signify knowing someone with various disabilities, from mobility to learning to visual.
“Disability is not something you can always see,” Krajcovic said. “As a culture, we need to be more aware of providing inclusive opportunities. I think that’s going to make Webster University a stronger institution.”
The exhibit, which was open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., brought in more faculty and staff members than students. Krajcovic said they were able to promote the event better to faculty and staff through Webster Today and email lists. However, Wetzel also used Facebook to invite students and promote the event.
“The staff feels that, from working with students with disabilities, this would be beneficial for them in their job,” Wetzel said. “The students probably don’t feel as much need to come, but it will benefit them in the future. I don’t know if they see that in the moment, but they will regret it if they didn’t come.”
Herando Green, a graduate student that came to the exhibit, said it opened his eyes to accessibility issues that he would not have noticed otherwise.
“I have some friends who have disabilities, so it’s good to know what they’re going through,” Green, business and human resources management major, said. “I think everyone should know this stuff. Every faculty, every professor should come here. It should be mandatory to know this stuff, be informed.”
Above all, Wetzel said she hopes the exhibit sparked conversation and created awareness across campus.
“Hopefully they go back to their friends, their families, and tell other people what they learned today,” Wetzel said.