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Disability awareness project set

For one day only - and one building only - Miami students, faculty and staff will be asked to find and use only wheelchair accessible entrances to Upham Hall.

The classroom project, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 16, is designed to raise awareness and consciousness about disability issues, said Kathy McMahon-Klosterman (educational psychology) and Jean Lynch (sociology and gerontology).

Students from their honors course, Women and (dis) Ability: Fictions and Contaminations of Identity, along with two student groups, Miami's Disability Awareness Club and Social Agents for Justice Education, are organizing the project.

Miami's police department and physical facilities department are also working with the students to make the project a success, say the professors.

Starting at 7 a.m. on Nov. 16, students will ribbon off the non-wheelchair-accessible Upham entrances and will stand at those entrances to hand out a fact sheet and information on disability rights. Students, faculty and staff will be asked to not use entrances that are not accessible to wheelchairs.

Once inside the building, individuals will be free to use any staircase or elevator they might normally use.

Most people overestimate the impact of the Americans With Disabilities Act, said Lynch. “Temporarily-abled people, for the most part, have never had to find, use or maneuver what passes for accessibility,” she said.

Physical access is only the first step toward larger issues of inclusion, “such as education, voting and leisure time,” said McMahon-Klosterman.

The Upham Hall project ties in with a disability forum that attracted a standing-room-only audience Oct. 21 at MacMillan Hall. That forum, sponsored by the University Multicultural Council's Committee on Curriculum Reform and Campus Transformation, was designed to underscore the idea that disability is an often overlooked dimension of diversity.

In all, more than 500 students at Miami have identified themselves as having disabilities that range from physical to learning, according to Andrew Zeisler, director of disability resources. “This campus dialogue is really important. It shouldn't be just my job to ensure accessibility. It should be everyone's,” he said.

Date Published: 11/11/2004
Volume: 24   Number: 15

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