Webster's defines awareness as "having knowledge or cognizance." To be aware implies knowing something either by perception or by means of information. Knowing the issues and challenges that persons with disabilities face should be inherent, however, like so many other issues, it takes a spark to affect learning about the many types of disabilities and what barriers must be overcome in order to lead a full and productive life.
Through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, federal laws have been enacted to protect the rights of people with disabilities and provide information about agencies to contact for assistance. But many people don't take the time to fully understand what barriers a person with disabilities faces, unless it's a family member or friend that has to surmount them on a daily basis. Regardless of the laws protecting their rights, persons with disabilities still often face discriminations that deny them opportunities to participate and make contributions to society. In most cases, this occurs due to ignorance or lack of education of the able persons.
The number of Americans who will need benefits as described by the ADA is steadily increasing. These increases can be traced to many factors, including an increased number of children born with disabilities, a greater number of diagnosis of disabilities, and the many who suffer disabilities through accidents of some kind (automobile, war, etc.), in addition to the increasing aged population of the United States. All of these things have made the need for an increase in disability awareness all that more important.
Although March is Indiana's observance of Disability Awareness for the state, awareness and education about persons with disabilities should occur all year long. This is why our Disability Awareness Committee at Indiana State University, now in its fourth year, started programming a variety of events throughout the academic year and began pulling in participants and sponsors from all areas of the community and state. We know how important it is that we all work together toward the common goal of equal rights and opportunities for all people -- able or disabled.
The ISU Blumberg Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Special Education and ISU's Cunningham Memorial Library have partnered since 2005 to bring disability awareness programming to the Indiana State University community. In 2006, this Disability Awareness Committee garnered recognition from the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities. In 2008, the committee expanded its offerings and brought in as another major partner ISU's College of Business.
Today, thanks to so many supportive sponsors and the support of Indiana State University as a whole, the committee is able to bring in an even wider array of presenters, exhibits and activities than ever before! [See upcoming events]