Disability Culture Day March 27 at Multicultural Center
March 21, 2013
MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University Disability Resource Center, Students for Disability Awareness and students enrolled in a Spring 2013 therapeutic recreation course will host Disability Culture Day: Disability as Identity from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, March 27 in the WIU Multicultural Center.
According to Disability Resource Center Learning Specialist Gretchen Steil Weiss, this year's event will feature an introductory video. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to engage in interactive discussions and browse displays created by students enrolled in "Introduction to Therapeutic Recreation," which is offered through the WIU Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration (RPTA). The activities at the March 27 event will focus on what disability means as both an individual and collective identity, she added.
RPTA Instructor Rachel Smith noted that taking part in Disability Culture Day offers students in her therapeutic recreation course (RPTA 251) the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom.
"The students are learning different ways to view the idea of disability," Smith explained. "One model is the social model, represented during the event, where disability is viewed as a social construct. Understanding the disability experience allows us to stop talking about 'others.' We stop viewing people as 'us' and 'them' and start seeing people—people who may function in different ways, people who may embrace their disabilities or despise their disabilities—but people, nonetheless."
Smith noted with one out of every five Americans reporting to have some type of disability, it is important for everyone to learn who this large minority group is.
"It is a diverse and very politically and socially active group of individuals. It is the only minority group anyone can join at any time. Most of us either know someone or are someone with some type of disability. The big lesson with those large numbers is that disability affects us all. We should all be concerned with educating ourselves about disability and its culture," she added.
According to Steil Weiss, a discussion list (see attached graphic) will help guide participants in thinking critically about disability and contribute to the interactive discussions to be held during Disability Culture Day.
"Hopefully, it will encourage them to continue the discussion about disability after they leave the event," she said.
Steil Weiss also noted that Disability Culture Day will now only be held during the spring semester at Western.
For more information, contact Steil Weiss at (309) 298-2512 or via email at GE-Steil@wiu.edu.