Cal State Fullerton celebrated its second annual Disability Awareness Day by hosting an event outside the Humanities and Social Sciences building. The event demonstrated how having a disability did not mean that people were handicapped in other areas.
Since October is Disability Awareness Month, the event was collaborated by CSUF’s Disability Support Services (DSS) and Abled Advocators in an effort to raise awareness about disabilities and the misleading social stigma that follows them. The purpose was to commemorate those with disabilities in the CSUF community and to accentuate how they were not defined by said disabilities.
Activities for the event included a student talent show, guest speakers, a history of disabilities exhibit, an expression wall, an accessible photo booth, a resource fair, face painting and opportunity drawings.
“The goal of the event is to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion,” said Darlene Serrano, an administrative assistant for DSS. “We have such (an) awesome population of these students on campus and we really wanted to celebrate their abilities and just really give them their time to shine.”
While the number of students with disabilities currently on campus is still unknown, there are around 1,700 who are registered to DSS, said Serrano.
Tom Thompson, interim director of DSS, said that the services dedicated to disabled students involved providing accommodations in classrooms, sign language interpreters for the hard of hearing, alternative formats for those with blindness or other learning disabilities, counseling for coursework and support for individuals with chronic illnesses.
Accessibility came to mind whenever Thompson thought of disability. CSUF’s role in providing such accessibility was enabling students to do whatever they wanted to do, study whatever they wanted to study and go wherever they wanted to go, Thompson said.
Charlotte Jimmons, a cosmetology instructor at Fullerton College, and other cosmetologists in the department came to the event to do face painting. Although this was their first time at a disability awareness event, the department was always accommodating students with any sort of disabilities, Jimmons said.
Along with raising awareness, the program wanted to let everyone know that all students should all be treated equally and fairly, regardless of their disabilities.
“A lot of times when people have disabilities, people are assuming that they look like they’re actually disabled, but it’s a lot further than that,” Jimmons said.
The Center for Autism was another vendor at the event. Ryan Franco, a sociology major and an associate for the organization, said that they provided a mentorship program for disabled students by pairing them up with other college students who would essentially be their mentors and make sure they have a fun and successful college life.
“It’s hard for them, especially if it’s difficult for them to find the necessary resources when you’re on the spectrum. So being able to provide those resources and allow them to have the best possible experience here is the most fulfilling part,” Franco said.
The highlight of the event was showcasing the abilities of individuals with disabilities. The talent show incorporated dance routines by the Walk and Roll Dance Team, an all-female wheelchair dance team, and musical performances by the Dream Achievers Band, composed of musicians with autism.
Jacquelyn Gerali, a counselor for DSS, said that the stigma of being disabled often prevented disabled students from registering at college-level disability support service offices. Disability Awareness Day was crucial to advocating for disabled students and letting those students know that they are entitled to specialized services on campus.
Disability awareness was important to impacting the lives of individuals with or without disabilities, Gerali said.