Disability Fest raises awareness, advocates for disabled students

Cara Daeschner

The Disability Advocacy Student Coalition hosted their second annual Disability Fest to raise awareness and advocate for the experiences of disabled people.

The event, held Thursday in the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center ballroom, featured booths and activities to educate attendees about mental health, chronic illnesses, mobility-related disabilities, and visual and auditory disabilities.

“Just being able to acknowledge the experiences of different disabled people on campus (is important) because I think we tend to narrowly define disability,” said Cole Glosser, the coalition’s outreach director and physical culture and sports sophomore.

Naili Salehuddin, DASC vice president and advertising sophomore, said she thinks everyone should be exposed to disability in some shape or form.

“First of all, our bodies are only temporarily abled, so you never know what’s going to happen to you,” Salehuddin said. “Then secondly, you never know who you are going to meet … Maybe you have a coworker who is disabled. Well, if you are not exposed to the disability beforehand, how are you going to interact?”

Salehuddin said she hopes the event will help others be more aware and not see disability as a scary or patronizing thing. Instead, people can learn about what it’s like living with a disability, she said.

Gabby Coelho, special education and Plan II senior, volunteered for the blind and visually impaired booth, where students wore masks and walked through a maze of chairs, bikes and other objects with and without a cane. 

Coelho said she decided to volunteer because she cares about making education equitable for everyone.

“One of the most overlooked populations in our schools (are) students with disabilities, so that’s why I am in special education and why I am passionate about volunteering in causes that help to advocate and bring awareness to individuals with disabilities,” Coelho said.

Elise Randall, a history and classics sophomore, said she is a student with a disability. Randall participated in the wheelchair obstacle course and said it was a lot more difficult than people may realize.

“You have to figure out how to turn,” Randall said. “You have to figure out how to get over bumps. It’s really difficult to wheel yourself.”

Randall said her biggest takeaway from the event was how different disabilities are on an individual level.

“A lot of disabilities are very varied,” Randall said. “It’s very different for each person.”