Residents learn about disabilities at “I Am Me” hall program


Katherine G. Krajcik – Special to the Southern News 

The Disability Resource Center, also known as the DRC, is always looking for ways to spread awareness and promote educational equality for students with disabilities on campus.

Last Tuesday in the West Campus lobby, resident advisor Josh Rascati put on an event titled “I Am Me.” Rascati invited Deb Fairchild and Alyssa Maresco, representatives from the DRC, as well as Kelly Lavoie, a member of the CT Spokebenders basketball team, to speak to students about visible and hidden disabilities.

After putting on an adaptive sports program last year, Rascati knew that he wanted to reach out to the DRC and utilize their department again. He also tore his ACL meniscus this year and was limited to certain movements, so this sparked his interest to put on the event “I Am Me.”

“I wanted to add another effective social justice program on campus to help grow our community,” said Rascati. “A responsibility as an RA is to lead the community by example and we work really hard on our programs so that we can be the change in the world that [residents] want to see.”

Lavoie, who was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis in 2004, talked with students about her life and her experiences with the disease.

According to mayoclinic.org, “primary lateral sclerosis causes weakness in voluntary muscles, such as those you use to control your legs, arms and tongue. Primary lateral sclerosis is a type of motor neuron disease that causes muscle nerve cells to slowly break down [and cause] weakness.”

Since the age of five, Lavoie has always played basketball and when a wheelchair was forced to come into her life, she still continued to play —Just in a chair.

“Don’t let disabilities hold you back from your passion,” said Lavoie.

Also diagnosed with dyslexia, Lavoie is employed full time and works 10 to 15 hour days programming computers.

“People with disabilities are just like any other person,” said Fairchild. “A disability does not define a person.”

Halfway through the program, when it was time for residents to eat wings and drink soda, some students had to tape up a few of their fingers or eat with one hand behind their back.

A main objective of the program was to cause audience members to have a temporary disability so they can feel what it is like in somebody else’s shoes.

Fairchild and Maresco talked about how to approach situations when someone has a disability by explaining “the ten commandments of communicating with people that have disabilities.”

An example of a commandment was, “If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions.”

They also stressed the importance of not parking in handicap spots. People can tend to forget that handicap spots have extra space in them so people can get their wheel chairs out of their cars.

All and all, the panel of speakers wanted to spread their message of not making assumptions.

“Sometimes you don’t even know who you’re offending. It is important to be that person that appropriately corrects somebody,” said Rascati.

Maresco also works with Outreach Unlimited, a group on campus that is open to anybody regardless of having a disability or not. This particular group of students will frequently plan disability awareness programs and they meet every Wednesday during the community hour.

“I feel like all students regardless of disability or no disability…want that somebody that they can connect with on campus and I try to be there for students and provide that support” said Maresco.

 

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