Westfield State celebrates Disability Awareness Week

WESTFIELD – As part of its Disability Awareness Week, Westfield State University will hold various events discussing physical, autistic, and intellectual disabilities. The events will take place Tuesday – Thursday.
The first event on Tuesday is a Disabilities Fair that will run from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Owl’s Nest located in the Ely Campus Center. The Disabilities Fair is an expo featuring information regarding various disabilities. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn what autism is, what types of technology people with disabilities use, and the usage of adaptive sports equipment, among other information.
Following the fair, there is a Language Seminar in the Loughman Living Room in Scanlon Hall at 4 p.m. where visitors can learn how to avoid missteps when referring to people with disabilities. Speaker Allegra Stout from the Boston Center for Independent Living will teach appropriate terminology and language styles, which put people first, not the disability. Refreshments will be provided by the Civic Engagement Committee.
Student Olivia Dumas ’15, who organized the awareness week, said that the language seminar is especially important.
“I think fixing our language is the first step needed to really start full inclusion in society,” Dumas said.
There will be three films screenings. Each film was handpicked by Dumas as a way to represent the three different types of disabilities: physical, autism, and intellectual. The first film is the 2011 award-winning French comedy-drama “The Intouchables,” which will be screened on March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Owl’s Nest. The film follows the relationship between a wealthy quadriplegic and his latest caretaker.
On Wednesday there will be a table set up in the Tim and Jeanne’s Dining Commons from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and from 5-8 p.m. Volunteers will discuss “Fast Facts” about disabilities and answer questions.
There will be an Adaptive Sports Demonstration in the Ely Owl’s Nest at 4 p.m. The event will inform visitors on how people with disabilities are able to participate in sports.
Just after the demonstration, from 5-7 p.m., there will be an EMS Club/Student Security Training Session in the Ely Owl’s Nest. The training session will be open to all, especially those who either are currently working in a first-responder job or wish to pursue one post-college. The session will inform students on how to safely work with people with disabilities.
At 7 p.m. in the Owl’s Nest, there will be a showing of the Minspeak Documentary, “Only God Could Hear Me.” The documentary follows the daily struggles of several people who have disorders that inhibit their ability to physically speak, and use the Minspeak symbol communication device.
At 8 p.m. the film “Rain Man” will be play in the Ely Owl’s Nest. The film portrays the second type of disabilities: autism. The award-winning film tells the story of Charlie and autistic-savant Raymond, played by Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Charlie and Raymond, both adults, just recently discovered that they are brothers after the passing of their father and the film follows their relationship as both try to get to know one another.
On the Thursday, the last day of Disability Awareness Week, is also “Spread the Word to End the Word Day,” a nation-wide campaign used to encourage people to remove the “R-word” from their vocabulary. There will be tables set up in the dining commons, Ely Campus Center, and Wilson Hall, with volunteers who will raise awareness about the repercussions of using the “R-word” as far as how harmful the word is, and how to remove it from one’s vocabulary. There will also be a banner at each table that students, faculty, and staff can sign to mark their pledge against using the “R-word.”
The final event is a film screening, which portrays intellectual disabilities. The 2001 drama “I Am Sam” starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer depicts love, loss, and family as it follows Sam, a father who has the mental cognition of a seven-year-old child. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Ely Owl’s Nest.
For more information regarding Disability Awareness Week, please contact Olivia Dumas at [email protected]

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