Diversity Awareness Day offers students a unique awareness experience

Highlighting the everyday struggles and challenges of students with disabilities, the Birch building cafeteria played host to Diversity Awareness on October 22. Students were invited to come out and try the different activities as they drifted through the building, and for a moment, literally live in someone else's shoes.

One activity involved strapping on clunky rubber shoes with a small half-circle on the bottom, and attempting to navigate across a small portion of the cafeteria floor. This activity was not only a chance to wear some flashy footwear, but to also experience something much more serious – walking with Parkinson's disease. Students stumbled across the linoleum, with a cane as their only aid, attempting to regain normal movement and balance.

Many of the students laughed off their fumbles, but stated that they didn't really realize what it was actually like and weighed in on the situation.

At a table informing students of Schizophrenia, students tried to listen to a set of instructions and follow them accordingly. It was an easy enough task, only there were two voices talking in the ears of the participant in the meantime. One of the voices was Shaun Stewart, the liaison for students with disabilities and a past sufferer of the disorder. When asked about what it was like to suffer from it, he replied that it was “a lot like being on a drug that you couldn't get off of” and that quite a lot of people misjudge what it actually is.

Many a time, as Shaun voiced, the public is misinformed about these disabilities, just assuming that they are something a person can get over. In the case of Schizophrenia, it is the widely held belief that it is a split-personality disorder, when it is actually a chemical imbalance in the brain's chemistry.

This is why Disability Services are striving to inform students and alter the reputation attached to physical and mental disabilities, with days such as Diversity Awareness. As Disability Services Facilitator Lucas Foss stated, “there is a certain stigma attached to ‘Disability’ – that’s why we changed it to ‘Diversity’”.

Students are invited to learn about subjects that they may have previously relied on the Internet or word of mouth to inform them of – to understand just what it is like to manage with a disability.

But there are many other events that the disability committee are hosting, from a Halloween Movie Night on October 29, to a talk on Schizophrenia on the 27. Everyone is invited to these events, and they are great ways to get to know your fellow students and expand a horizon or two.

You can contact the Family Support Centre at 604-926-0856 for inquires into personal support and information on major mental illness.

Weekly meetings for the Disability Committee are held Wednesdays at 12:40 in the Birch cafeteria.

//Haley Wishaw


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