Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Student Panel to Reflect on Disabilities

    Students with disabilities can feel invisible, which is why it is increasingly important to nurture discussion regarding disabilities.

    On Wednesday, April 8, a panel of students will be holding a discussion in Student Center 160 from 4-6 p.m. surrounding their experience with disabilities. Questions for the panel were to be submitted no later than April 1 for review beforehand.

    Topics that these panelists wish to address include the story of their individual journeys, the language that they prefer people to use when talking about disability and how their disability, as well as disability in general, is perceived and interpreted by others.

    The students that were chosen for the panel were invited based on a desire to present wide array of experiences of disabilities and a willingness to share with the greater community the struggle they may have faced.

    “Our ultimate goal is to create a more inclusive campus culture around the acceptance of not only individuals with disabilities but of everybody,” said Kiana Parker, the alternative media coordinator of Disabilities Services.

    A growing demand for attention to the treatment of those with disabilities helps press the issue forward.

    “We see at the undergraduate level at least one in 10 students has an invisible disability that might be a challenge for them,” said Director of Disabilities Services Richard Okamoto. “Our population [of students with disabilities] has increased as enrollment has increased.”

    According to Okamoto, one of misunderstanding about his office is that those that utilize Disabilities Services only do so for special treatment. The office hopes to de-stigmatize their services by emphasizing the fact that having a disability is not a choice.

    “I’ve had to work for my voice as someone with a medical disability and to fight for everything I wanted to accomplish,” said freshman Braden Wild, Student Government of Seattle University’s Students with Disabilities Representative. Wild will be one of five panelists at the student forum.

    Apart from the student panel, there will be a panel of employers holding a discussion on Monday, Apr. 13 from 6-8 p.m. in Casey 500.

    One goal of this panel is to educate upperclassmen students with disabilities to help prepare them for the workplace and the various accommodations they will offer.

    Employers attending this forum include Goodwill, Nordstrom, and the Northwest ADA Center. A veteran from the Wounded Warrior Program will also be present. Parker, who was in charge of assembling both panels, wanted a mix of both small and large companies as well as for-profit and non-profit organizations.

    Although panels serve as great starting points to develop and evolve conversations and increase awareness, action is also important, said sophomore Jesse Angeles.
    “Making a problem known doesn’t necessarily solve the problem,” Angeles said. “It takes people who actually want to make a change, so you need somebody to actually act on what they hear.”

    Future programs within Disabilities Services have yet to be announced. Many ideas are currently in the brainstorming phase, but any formal programming requires a
    bigger budget.

    “One of the biggest challenges working with disabilities services is money,” Parker said. “I’m sure that is a sentiment that is echoed across departments at this institution.”

    Currently, Disabilities Services is at capacity, providing just enough for students to take exams, which is primarily what the resources for the office funds.

    According to Parker, the small staff of four would like to see a larger social space created where students in the office can meet and learn from each other. This would enable more connections within the community.

    For now, these panels will aim to transform the thoughts of everyone on campus and to establish new allies alongside the community of individuals with disabilities.
    “I think the students that have agreed to do this are extraordinarily brave because they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable to create a better Seattle U,” Parker said. “They deserve a lot of credit for what they’re willing to do and I think they should be acknowledged for it.”

    Vikki may be reached at [email protected]

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