At the announcer’s cue, three people in wheelchairs dashed for the finish line. As the lead wheelchair made its way toward the end of the course, Pooja Garg got out of her wheelchair in a humorous stunt and started pushing it toward the finish line. “As you can see, I’m a much better wheelchair pusher than a wheelchair rider,” said Garg, a business and marketing education senior. “But I had fun, even though I cheated.”
The wheelchair race was just one of many events the University of Minnesota’s Disabled Student Cultural Center (DSCC)hosted September 30 to kick off their on-campus celebration of Disability Awareness Month (DAM) in October.
“My friend told me to come out here,” said Garg, who is also a member of the DSCC. “I didn’t know about it at first, but anything that has to do with the disability services, I support.”
According to DSCC co-director John Lukanen, the day was meant to give the campus community a chance to experience activities that a disabled person might experience in everyday life. The event featured a manual wheelchair competition, a manual wheelchair basketball contest, a powered wheelchair obstacle course, and blindfold basketball-shooting games.
Throughout October, DSCC hosted a variety of events as part of the larger SEE3 project, an awareness campaign meant to give the campus community a chance to experience activities that a disabled person might experience in his or her everyday life. As part of a larger “SEE 3” awareness campaign, DSCC made two giant banners—one hanging from Northrop Auditorium facing Coffman Union, and another on Church Street in front of Murphy Hall. The banners read: SEE 3, See Ability, See Disability, See Me.The month’s theme, “See Ability, See Disability, See Me” is meant to help people realize that there is more to a people than their disabilities, DSCC board member Uriah McKin-ney said. “I think it’s an important message to the community,” he added.
“What we are saying [with the “SEE 3” slogan] is ‘See my ability, see my disability, and also see me as who I am and what I can do,’” Lukanen explains. “We want to increase awareness that there are many students with disabilities at the U and that we are a vital piece of this campus. We also want to acknowledge that the DSCC does exist on this campus and is a resource.”
First-year geology student Mohd Faris Hashim said he saw the event as he was walking from a class and thought it looked like a lot of fun. He said it ended up being an educational experience as well when he participated in blindfold basketball.
“It’s really hard. You didn’t know anything at all. You just throw and hope you make a basket,” he said. “I really hope more people can get involved, it helps us to realize that even people without disabilities aren’t perfect.”
McKinney said he hopes to change the attitudes that some people have toward people with disabilities.
“When people see me walk with a cane, they see me walking with a cane, not me as an individual,” McKinney said. “Even when there isn’t that visual symbol, people tend to get a different attitude when they learn about a disability. SEE3’s campaign is trying to break that attitude.”
The University chapter of DSCC was the first disabled cultural center in the nation, and has 200 to 300 members, but there are at least 840 registered students with disabilities at the University, according to group members.
The group does more than organize Disability Awareness Month. To increase the level of disability awareness throughout the year, DSCC also hosts monthly Lunch & Learns, where the group chooses a different disability to highlight and discuss every lunch time.
Source: Copyright 2005 The Minnesota Daily