Twenty years ago, the federal government signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Next week, Learning Support Services will celebrate the passage of the act with a series of events that will educate students about life with disabilities.
Cheri White, assistant director of learning support services, organized three days of awareness events set to begin Sept. 29.
“I hope people will go away with more understanding of invisible disabilities,” White said. “What does it mean when you look twice at someone because they are different?”
Invisible disabilities, like multiple sclerosis, are not immediately obvious to an observer.
The jewel in the crown of White’s events is speaker Kevin Michael Connolly, a 23-year-old skiing champion ,who was born without legs. Connolly will speak about his experiences at 8 p.m. Sept. 29 in the Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
A seminar about seeing-eye dogs will be at the 11:30 a.m. Sept. 29 in the Fred Meyer Lounge.
Eileen Dowty, coordinator of learning support services, assembled some of Linfield’s faculty and staff who have disabilities for a question and answer session.
“The difficulty is not that they are uncomfortable talking about their disabilities but that they have class during the question and answer session,” Dowty said.
She said she had more success with Linfield’s staff, who have no schedule conflicts with the event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 30 in the FML.
“I’ve had more success with staff and administrators because they traditionally take their lunch breaks from noon to 1 p.m.,” Dowty said. “They’re volunteering their free time for this.”
She said she expects six faculty and staff members to attend the session and answer questions.
White said she consulted with Dan Fergueson, director of college activities, on how to encourage students to become involved with
She said his advice — give students a hands-on experience — inspired the information session 11:30 a.m. Oct. 1 in the Walker Hall foyer.
Dowty spoke at length about the ADA, which requires Linfield to make some accommodations to people with disabilities.
“The campus is already geared for accommodation and access,” she said.
Examples include the sloping ramps into the campus buildings and the cutaways on the sidewalk curbs. and interpreters for deaf students and faculty.
She also mentioned that the fire alarms have flashing lights wired into them to warn the hearing impaired.
“If hearing-impaired students take out their hearing aids, they can’t hear the alarms,” Dowty said. “The lights wake them up.”
Dowty has experience with individuals with disabilites. Her older brother was the first legally blind student in the New Mexico public school
“They told my parents to put him in a corner, send him to the blind institute when he’s 6 and have more children,” Dowty said. “My parent’s didn’t stand for that.”
The celebration of the ADA comprises two other events. “Temple Grandin,” a biographical film about a still-living autistic woman earning her doctorate in animal science, will be screened at 8 p.m. Sept. 30 in Ice Auditorium.
The final event is a play titled “Not Until You Know My Story.” It’s based on 14 interviews that address ethnic, physical and mental differences among people. The play will open at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 in Ice Auditorium.
Joshua Ensler/News editor Joshua Ensler can be reached at email@example.com.