Representatives from the Ball State University Honors College Diversity Project collaborated with the Inclusive Excellence Series to host a Disability Pride awareness event. The event, hosted by diversity fellows from the organization, included lectures from guest speakers within the mental health and disability fields.
The purpose of this event was to highlight an underrepresented community where few events are organized to celebrate people with disabilities.
“This was done not only to help people learn more about the disabled community and gain resources, but also, to make the disabled community an environment in which people are happy and proud to be [in],” Sajahane Lloyd, a diversity fellow for the organization, said.
The first speaker was Evette Simmons-Reed, an applied behavior analysis assistant professor at Ball State. Simmons-Reed has worked with many students from childhood until adulthood and is now the founder of an organization that cultivates academic, social, and personal success for people who are a part of the autism spectrum. She discussed the importance of expressing one’s authentic self because disabilities don’t define a person.
Growing up with a blind disability in special education classes, Simmons-Reed recognized firsthand that the term “disability” carries a lot of negative connotations and creates a lot of stereotypes that go along with it.
“However, in this country,we’re blessed to be here because we get to determine our own destiny,” Simmons-Reed said.
The second to speak was director of Ball State’s Office of Disability Services, Courtney Jarrett. She talked about the different accommodations her office provides to students who need them and the importance of being an ally to someone who experiences a mental or physical disability.
“You can support people with disabilities, if you do not consider yourself a part of the disabled community,” Jarrett said. “You can do little things, such as offering accommodations for those who need them or asking people who are struggling if they need help. You can just be a decent human being to them.”
The event ended with the diversity fellows showcasing artists who, despite their daily challenges due to a disability, can still do what they love and be successful at it. This demonstrated the importance of realizing that having a disability isn’t bad and everyone should be accepted for who they are, no matter what disability they’re experiencing.
“It’s important for us as an organization that supports marginalized and underrepresented communities that we give everyone a voice and a platform to talk about their experiences with disabilities by supporting them and highlighting their achievements and accomplishments,” diversity fellow Michaela Ayeh said.
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