BYU to host national disabilities awareness week

Statistics of disabilities in America. (BYU Universe)
Surprising statistics of disabilities in America according to the CDC. (The Universe)

BYU will host a week long event promoting National Disabilities Awareness Week starting on Oct. 26, 2015.

LaNae Valentine, coordinator of Attention, Learning and Emotional Disorders at BYU’s University Accessibility Center, said that this event will help raise awareness of disabilities and also aim to reduce the stigma that goes along with having a disability.

“Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they should feel ashamed or feel lesser than other people,” Valentine said. “There’s a lot of very smart, bright capable people that have disabilities and contribute to our society.

She also said that most people think of someone having a disability as someone in a wheelchair, or someone who has trouble hearing or seeing. Valentine explained that some people have disabilities that you can’t see, and this event will help raise awareness of these invisible disabilities.

“There are a lot of invisible disabilities that include chronic diseases and emotional disorders,” Valentine said. “Sometimes people think those aren’t really disabilities, but they can make life really very difficult and challenging for people.”

Emma Wood, a second year graduate student studying social work at BYU, is one individual who has an invisible disability. She has an autoimmune disease known as undifferentiated connective tissue disease. This gives her fatigue, muscle pain, joint paint and weakness.  Wood said, for the most part, people don’t recognize her illness.

“I think a lot of people can recognize a person in a wheelchair, or with crutches or braces, or a visual impairment,” Wood said. “They can see that, but a lot of people have disabilities you can’t see.”

She said she thinks people can be ignorant because they don’t understand what people with invisibilities are going through.

“For me, I look fine,” Wood said. “They don’t understand why someone might be having a hard time with something just because they look normal.”

Wood will be participating in a disabilities etiquette panel on Oct. 30, 2015 as a part of National Disabilities Awareness Week.

Jason Burr, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator at the BYU University Accessibility Center, will be speaking during National Disabilities Week. He will be giving a lecture on the role of sign language interpreters on campus. He explained that it is important for people to gain a greater understanding of disabilities and circumstances in order to support and respect others’ needs.

“It is important for all of us to understand each other more fully to be able to support each other to grow from each others experiences and knowledge and to truly get the most out of life while we’re here,” Burr said.

He said the BYU week long event will bring a greater understanding to the campus community and will bring comfort to those who struggle with things that may not be evident.

“It’s really kind of about campus unity, but also about making education accessible for everyone, so that everyone has the same opportunities to succeed or fail based on their own merits, not based on what is dictated by their disabilities,” Burr said.

National Disabilities Week will run from Oct. 26 to Oct. 30.


Oct. 26 at noon- 3380 WSC: The Role of Sign Language Interpreters on Campus

Oct. 27 at noon- WSC Booth: Responding to Disability: A Question of Attitude

Oct. 28 at noon- WSC Varsity Theater: Surround Yourself with Greatness

Oct. 29 at 11 a.m.- 3211 WSC: Tips for Managing ADHD in College

Oct. 30 at noon- WSC Terrace:Disability Awareness and Etiquette Panel

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