College President Spends Day in Wheelchair to Raise Awareness
Caldwell College celebrates Disability Awareness Day.
Just how hard is it to get around in a wheelchair? How would you get by without use of your dominant arm? What would it be like to need assistance from others?
Those are just some of the questions and issues students and faculty at Caldwell College were forced to think about on Tuesday as the college celebrated Disability Awareness Day.
College president Dr. Nancy H. Blattner, Interim Vice President & Dean for Student Life Sister Kathleen Tuite, and Student Government President Bishrut Thapa spent the day in wheelchairs to raise awareness about disabilities. Student Thomas Manning had his dominant arm in a sling for the day.
Faculty, staff and students gathered in the morning for the launch of the day and an introduction by Coordinator of Disability Services Abbe Benowitz.
Dr. Blattner, Sister Kathleen, and Manning had lunch in the cafeteria with some students at Caldwell College who have disabilities. At the end of the day, the college community was invited to a reflection on the day's experiences.
"I hope what our campus community takes away from this Disability Awareness Day is that every day we need to be aware, alert, conscious of disabilities; those that are obvious and those that are hidden. It is not about sympathy or pity. It is about awareness, empathy and kindness," Benowitz said.
Dr. Blattner said it was very important for the lessons learned to go "beyond today," and that everyone learn to be sensitive to the needs of students who have disabilities. She said that as a person who likes to help other people, it was difficult for her to ask and receive help from others when she needed it while using the wheelchair.
Sister Kathleen said it was very "awareness provoking" and that she got a "very little taste" of the lives of those who have a physical disability. She said she also saw the goodness of people who were willing to help.
Manning said he has never broken an arm or a leg so going through the day without his dominant arm was a real "eye-opening experience."
Vinny Falzon, a senior Communication Arts major who uses a wheelchair sometimes and crutches at other times, stayed with Sister Kathleen at different times during the day to show her how he navigates around campus daily. He said it is a good idea to have this type of event because it "gets people to realize the struggles we have, to get through the day."
Meghan Forte who uses a motorized scooter says it is a good idea for the college to have the event because "we are learning about each other."
After the reflection, students were able to see how a Braille machine is used and take part in simulation activities.