Mar 272005
Authors: Tara Land

Mark Kingten walks to classes, plays soccer and basketball, and has cerebral palsy.

Kingten, a junior history major, has had cerebral palsy since birth. Considering his level of activities, how a disability is defined might seem unclear.

"It is hard to define a disability because there are so many types, such as physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental disabilities," Kingten said.

Resources for Disabled Students and the Committee for Disabled Student Accessibility are sponsoring Disability Awareness Days Tuesday through Thursday.

DAD's purpose is to "heighten the campus awareness about people with disabilities as well as the major issues that affect them," said Chelsea Duncan, a staff member in the Resources for Disabled Students office.

Kingten said awareness helps the campus understand misconceptions regarding common disabilities.

"Disability Awareness Days are important because they let others know that people with disabilities are able to do things people think we can't do. It also lets people know about the different types of disabilities out there," Kingten said.

To learn another's way of life can be an awarding and educational experience that broadens perspectives on the campus, the community and even the world.

"Disability awareness is very important, just as it is to learn about people from different cultures and religions or backgrounds," said Emily Brake, a senior biological sciences major. "Getting to know people with disabilities has helped me see a whole different perspective on life and about how to connect with people who were from a completely different experience."

Brake had a traumatic brain injury the summer after her junior year and has since been coming to terms with her disability.

"There are two major ways being disabled has changed my life: Things tend to take longer to do, and it is so much easier to be isolated," Brake said.

Many events will take place throughout the awareness days that invite both the campus and the community to participate. Such events include films each night that deal with disability issues, programs dealing with deaf culture, sign language, reading disabilities and Internet accessibility for disabled students.

Resources for Disabled Students provides disabled students with any needs they may have. By sponsoring DAD, Resources for Disabled Students is able to perform a collaborative effort with the campus and community regarding the value of disability awareness.

"In fulfilling the mission of RDS, we really cannot do it without the support, cooperation, collaboration, etc. of lots and lots of people," said Rose Kreston, director of the resources office.

In addition to the resources office, many departments on campus strive to acknowledge the importance of disability awareness and how it can affect the campus and community as a whole.

"We cannot let ignorance color our opinions. There are still folks who equate a reading disability with laziness or stupidity, yet many people know that Einstein had a reading disability. Awareness is education, and that is what CSU is all about," said Catherine Stager-Kilcommons, coordinator of assistive technology in the Assistive Technology Resource Center.

During DAD, awareness programming is developed, celebrated and demonstrated as one of the goals of Resources for Disabled Students. One aspect of DAD is the honoring of effort through the Outstanding Effort Award, which has been in place since 1995.

"The purpose of the award was, and is, to give recognition to individuals and departments who have done things on behalf of students with disabilities to make this a good place for them to be students," Kreston said.

Four categories of awards are given out, including department, faculty, staff and student awards.

"This award was one way to make it noticeable that students with disabilities are students of the university and that everyone has a stake in the endeavor to create a nondiscriminatory community for students with disabilities," Kreston said.

Stager-Kilcommons, winner of the 2002 faculty Outstanding Effort Award, uses the analogy of a toolbox to best characterize her efforts.

"By offering the students a toolbox full of tools that they know how to use, they can be prepared when they need a hammer," Stager-Kilcommons said. "It might be that for one student, the hammer is the ability to turn their syllabus into Braille."

Disability Awareness Days is an example of Colorado State's effort to create a campus that provides every student with equal opportunity to succeed academically and in life, living up to the university's mission.

"I feel if you really want to make the best of your college experience you need to get involved in the community and campus," said Rob Gerk, former student winner of the OEA and president of the CSU Sign Club. "Disability Awareness Days provides an outlet on campus for people in the community to come and learn about the different conditions and not be unaware of them."

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