Campus Link Newsletter
Parents Fund Grant Helps Campus Celebrate Disability Awareness Month
March marks a time of renewal and celebration here in Indiana as the grey grip of winter relaxes, and extended sunlight allows for warmer, livelier days. It is the perfect time for the IU Bloomington campus to celebrate Disability Awareness Month (affectionately known as DAM). Truly grasping the spirit of cheerfulness that accompanies this time of year, this year’s DAM theme is Celebrating a World of Difference. The theme ties in with what is surely one of the most comprehensive and diverse months of educational and entertaining events in recent memory for Disability Awareness Month. What makes this year’s DAM programming schedule so uniquely superior? Quite simply, a grant from the Parents Fund awarded to the Office of Disability Services for Students- the campus department that supports students with disabilities and plans DAM every year.
The Office of Disability Services for Students utilized their grant to its fullest extent. The programs developed by the Office were so diverse that Celebrating a World of Difference was the only theme that could accurately encapsulate the events for March. The Disabilities Awareness Fair took place in the Well Library lobby and featured over 20 booths touting resources for individuals with disabilities and their allies from the campus and Bloomington community. The lobby location allowed for hundreds of students who might not otherwise seek out disability resources to interact with groups and individuals that work to support folks with disabilities and help deconstruct the stigma they face.
Nothing engages students quite like a night out at the movies. This year’s DAM featured a film series co-sponsored by the IU Cinema and various academic departments. Films like The King’s Speech and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? were screened in the newly renovated cinema free to IU students. Conversations about the films as they relate to disability were facilitated by IU professors, who challenged students to think about the messages conveyed by the films about individuals with disabilities.
Another program made possible by the Parents Fund that had students thinking about disabilities in a new way was a talk by actor, writer, and comedian Erik Stolhanske. Students know Erik from films like Super Troopers, Club Dread, and Beerfest (he wrote and starred in them all), but what most don’t know about Erik is that he made it in Hollywood missing one thing- a leg. Erik was born without a fibula in his left leg, but it hasn’t been an obstacle that he has ever felt handicapped by, nor has he let it define him. Erik was even the captain of his high school baseball team. Erik came to IU Bloomington from Los Angeles to talk to students about his life and experiences as part of the Disability Awareness Month celebration and dared students- those with and without physical disabilities- to think differently about the abilities of individuals that our society labels as disabled. The event was free to all that attended.
March also featured panel discussions led by IU students with disabilities. These panels allowed attendees to ask questions of students about their experiences on and off campus with their disabilities. The students on the panels opened up and shared their successes and challenges, allowing attendees to better understand the experiences of IU students. The panels were intimate and thought-provoking, and all of those involved were deeply touched by the candidness and willingness of the volunteer student panelists.
Screening rights and film reels are not cheap, nor is securing a famed Hollywood actor turned speaker. Without the Parents Fund grant, this unprecedented month of disability awareness
programming would not have been possible and March would have just been another month here on campus. Instead, the Parents Fund grant to the Office of Disability Services for students allowed for a dynamic, engaging month brimming with events relevant to IU students. Because of the grant, IU is one step closer to understanding the unique experiences of people with disabilities. Is there any cause more worthy of celebration during this season of restoration and renewal?
Office of Disability Services for Students