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UM Student Disability Services to Host Ability Exhibit

Student Disabilities Services  Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications
Student Disabilities Services
Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications
In an effort to create awareness and develop allies for people with disabilities, the University of Mississippi Office of Student Disability Services is hosting “Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit” on campus.

All faculty, staff and students are invited to visit the exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday (Sept. 19) through Sept. 21 in the ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. An opening reception will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, and refreshments will be served.

The purpose of the traveling exhibit is to promote inclusion through respect for others, comfort during interactions and awareness of disability issues. The exhibit offers suggestions for community members to become allies and educators of disability issues by using interactive multimedia.

The disability community is the largest minority group in the United States and is one of the most marginalized, facing educational, economic and social barriers, said Stacey Reycraft, director of Student Disability Services.

A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics report from 2015 indicates that only 16.4 percent of Americans with disabilities have a bachelor’s degree or higher, she said. In 2014, a report showed that 20.9 percent of 24-year-olds with disabilities did not have a high school diploma.

“The first step in removing these barriers to educational and economic access for people with disabilities is to normalize disability and, more importantly, to recognize that disability is a social justice issue,” Reycraft said. “One way to remove these barriers is change the discussion about disability.

“I believe the ability exhibit will facilitate a change in the discussion at the University of Mississippi. It will change attitudes about disability and will allow visitors and participants an opportunity to learn what disability is and what it isn’t.”

In addition to the exhibit, SDS will host four Allies for Inclusion workshops, where participants will learn to be supportive allies. The workshops are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday (Sept. 20). Space in the workshops is limited and those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP by email to reycraft@olemiss.edu.

“This program is critically important as it will educate our campus community about individuals with disabilities,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “The titling is purposeful – it is an ability exhibit as disabilities are a social construct that should never reflect on the individual, their talents and contributions.

“This program provides an opportunity to enhance one’s understanding and comfort, and furthers our community’s inclusion efforts.”

The exhibit began in 2010 at Saint Louis University to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Modules include first-person language, “Ability IQ,” invisible disabilities, universal design of curricular and physical spaces and the disability civil rights movement.

After visiting the exhibit, attendees should be able to demonstrate knowledge and awareness of disabilities and the disability movement, identify the physical and social challenges faced by people with disabilities and become advocates for the acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities in society.

The exhibit is made possible through sponsorships by SDS, the Student Affairs Family Leadership Council, School of Education, Office of Global Engagement, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, Department of Social Work and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement.

Courtesy of Christina Steube and the Ole Miss News Desk

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