MU hosts first Celebrate Ability Week

Organizers hope to change the public view of disabilities.
Spencer Pearson / Graphic Designer

MU will host its first Celebrate Ability Week next week, 20 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disabilities.

Celebrate Ability Week is a collection of events intended to change the public's view of disabilities, Great Plains ADA Center Specialist Troy Balthazor said.

"This week is about celebrating ability, certainly not disability," Balthazor said. "I think it's important for our university community to show support for people with disabilities at Mizzou. It's just an opportunity to experience something you haven't experienced before."

Disability Services Director Barbara Hammer said she is anxious to learn the results of the week, as she sees it as an opportunity to dissolve any ignorance regarding disability.

"What we want is for people to start viewing disability different, because disability should not be viewed as a problem or something that limits people," she said. "We want people to really see the environment in which we live as the thing that needs to be adjusted, not the people."

Events range from a Tiger Wheelchair basketball open house Monday to 10 forums and seminars held throughout Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Planning for the week's festivities has been an extended and rigorous process, Balthazor said.

"The idea's been floating around out there for a while," he said. "It certainly wasn't my original idea. It was something that a number of people around campus had considered doing. I saw what I thought was a good idea and tried to run with it, and with a lot of support from students, staff and faculty at Mizzou, we've been very successful in getting it off the ground."

More than 10 organizations collaborated to make the week possible, Hammer said.

"It has been a really good mutual effort," she said. "We've got a lot of folks on board with us."

The Missouri Students Association is responsible for Wednesday's screening of "Murderball," a documentary following paraplegics who play full-contact rugby. The star of the film, Mark Zupan, will share his story following the presentation.

The week will end with a universally designed presentation of the comedy "Date Night," which accommodates anyone interested in watching.

"If you are blind and you want to watch and enjoy a movie, there is a voiceover that describes what is going on in a movie when no dialogue is going on," Hammer said. "As you're sitting there not seeing the film, you can still follow what's going on."

ADA Coordinator Lee Henson said intermingling between students with and without disabilities is an intended outcome of next week.

"It's very important that students with and without disabilities get to know one another," he said. "Participating in these events provides them with an opportunity to have a really good learning experience."

Balthazor said Celebrate Ability Week is just one method of working toward a more inclusive experience at MU.

"The goal is for people with disabilities to have an inclusive experience attending the University of Missouri," he said. "We have a responsibility to provide an accessible experience for the people who are here at Mizzou and for the people who want to be here in the future because we are accessible and we are welcoming."

Hammer said she hopes next week will empower students with disabilities.

"This just gives a chance to showcase a lot of positive things that are associated with disabilities and ways that people can access programs and services and participate in life just like the rest of us," she said.

Although this is MU's first time hosting Celebrate Ability Week, Hammer said it is certainly not the last. "I'm calling this the first annual," Hammer said. "We're going to try to do this next year."

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