Editorial: Increasing disability awareness on campus

The University’s Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services is hosting its fifth annual Disability Awareness Program tonight. The program will consist of a question-and-answer session with a panel that seeks to educate students and community members about disabilities.

We strongly recommend that students attend the program to ensure they have a full understanding of the challenges and realities associated with disability in all forms.

The University is renowned for the accommodations it provides for students with disability. DRES provided over 1,500 students with support in 2014. Ninety-one percent of DRES students graduate from the University — which is higher than the graduation rates of the University as a whole — and 87 percent of 2010 DRES graduates told the University that all of their disability-related needs were met by the school.

As successful as the DRES program has been since it was created to serve veterans in the late 1940s, there is always more that can be done to ensure that there is full integration between students who have disabilities and those who do not.

And while the University is mostly doing its part in ensuring that students with disabilities are treated well by the school, other students at the University could still be lagging behind in disability awareness.

There frequently still seems to be a rather significant social barrier between students who are non-disabled and students who are disabled on campus. The first step to erasing that obstruction is for students to learn about the intricacies and issues students with disabilities face and how they overcome them.

It’s important to learn about the needs and desires of students with disabilities and then respond to them accordingly, especially when it comes to how they want to be treated and approached. For the most part, that merely entails a strong wish to be treated normally.

Panel members said that often, people who are non-disabled are nervous to ask potentially invasive questions of students with disabilities, even if those questions could improve the connection between the two groups. The panel will be open and willing to answer those questions in detail, making it even more prudent for students to attend.

Students with disabilities make up a significant portion of our student population at this esteemed school.

As one campus community, it is important to foster a sense of togetherness amongst all students, and this is more than feasible, desired and within reach.

The first step to overcoming any unnecessary barriers between students communities is becoming educated about disabilities, but more than anything, treating students with disabilities as who they are: Students and people.