For Colorado State University student Jamie Weathers, being disabled isn’t her biggest obstacle–people’s misperceptions are.
Diagnosed as an infant with a rare congenital disease called Maffucci’s Syndrome, Weathers has had to deal with misperceptions all her life.
"Sometimes people will assume that I can’t get out of my motorized scooter," Weathers said. "Or people may pick up my lunch tray for me without asking if I need help. It’s more about lack of awareness than malice." It is this lack of awareness and understanding that Colorado State’s Office of Resources for Disabled Students is tackling through its annual Disability Awareness Days, which runs March 17-21. The theme for this year, "Don’t DIS My Ability," was selected to celebrate the experience of individuals who have disabilities, without "dis-ing" their abilities.
"All the events are for everyone and anyone to learn something new," said Kate Shockley, co-coordinator of the event. "People will be able to see how disabled individuals use their talents to educate others. They don’t let their disabilities hold them back." Weathers will use her singing talent during Disability Awareness Days in a theatrical performance by PHAMALY–the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League. The performance runs 6-8 p.m. March 20 in the Lory Student Center West Ballroom. PHAMALY is a 100-member acting troupe that provides an outlet for people with disabilities to showcase their talents and educates the audience.
In addition to the PHAMALY performance, the week will feature a sign language demonstration, a video about learning disabilities, a panel discussion about people who use wheelchairs and much more. All programs are free and open to the public, except for the movie, "In the Land of the Deaf," which costs $2.50.
Weathers hopes Disability Awareness Days will help people understand that being disabled is not something to pity, because everybody has something they can’t do.
"I’m a person first and a person with a disability second," Weathers said. "I don’t let my disability stop me. In fact, my disability gives me a reason not to stop because I don’t want it to get the best of me." Events for Disability Awareness Days are scheduled as follows in the Lory Student Center.
- Learning Disabilities, noon-2 p.m., Room 202-204 LSC. Video presentation and discussion about the nature and effects of learning disabilities in an educational environment.
- "Wheelchair Users: Differences and Similarities," 4-5 p.m., Room 202-204 LSC. Not all people use wheelchairs exactly the same. This panel presentation will help clarify some of these differences. Sponsored by the Disabled Student Action Group.
- Office of Resources for Disabled Students, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., LSC Sunken Lounge. Information will be available to explain the role of this student support office on campus, and the services provided to students with disabilities and to the campus community.
- Geri Jewel video, continuous showing, Sunken Lounge. Presentation of comedian Geri Jewell and her views on disability in society.
- Recreation Opportunities, noon-1 p.m., Sunken Lounge. Information will be presented about recreational activities that are available for people with disabilities through Fort Collins Parks and Recreation.
- Living Healthy with a Chronic Illness, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunken Lounge. Informational display on chronic illnesses and wellness issues. Part of Wellness Wednesday, sponsored by Hartshorn Health Service.
- "Is What You See What You Get?," noon-1:30 p.m., Room 228 LSC. Reflection on the expectations of people facilitated through metaphor, story and conversation. Part of Women at Noon, sponsored by Women’s Programs and Studies.
- American Sign Language 101, noon-1 p.m., Sunken Lounge. Demonstration of sign language and information about Deaf Culture. Presented by Colorado State’s Sign Language Club.
- Recognition of Outstanding Effort Awards, 6-8 p.m., LSC West Ballroom. Announcement and presentation of 1997 award winners. Winners of the Barrier-Free Design Contest also will be announced and all contest entries will be on display. In addition, the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League will present "PHAMALY," a theatrical performance, as part of the evening’s events.
- Barrier Free Designs, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunken Lounge. Display of winning designs by Colorado State interior design students.
- "In the Land of the Deaf," 9:30 p.m., LSC Theatre. Critically acclaimed documentary that takes viewers on a journey through the world of silence. Admission is $2.50.
For more information, call the Office of Resources for Disabled Students at (970) 491-6385.