Late last month, the York College Helping Hands club partnered with YCRadio to honor the fourth annual Disability Awareness Celebration during CUNY’s college-wide Disabilities Awareness month.
“There is a lot of diversity here at York and every student has abilities, but the event today proved our students have more than abilities, they have amazing talent as well,” said Dr. Truett Vaigneur, adjunct professor and CUNY Leads advisor with the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD).
The event, organized by the CSD was part of several others held throughout the month including a poster campaign, movie screening and a panel discussion on autism.
Kenny Burdier, vice-president of the Helping Hands Club and James Duo, of the cleverly-named band “Kenny and James Duo” were the first to perform with an untitled original.
“Their original song brought me to tears,” said York music instructor Dr. Tom Zlabinger. “They both have learned a ton while in our program and continue to surprise me.”
Crystal Rivera, a York College alumna, was one of the guest speakers who touched on the importance for students with disabilities to be vocal about their rights.
“You have to self advocate,” said Rivera who currently works for the Bronx Independent Living Services. “If you don’t self advocate, no one will know what your needs are.”
Rivera explained that when she started at York she didn’t know what her rights were as a disabled student and she thanked CSD for the services she received.
“Don’t let your disability stand in your way,” said Rivera. “Disability is not a limit it is only a diagnosis.”
A number of students from the Infinity Dance Group rolled in to perform wheelchair dances. The group’s founder, Kitty Lunn, performed an interpretive dance titled “In Time Like Air.”
Alice Sheppard another dancer, performed her piece, “Alice’s Story.” Their final piece, “Solid Ground/ Stainless Steel,” was performed by Sheppard and Lunn and is part of a larger piece, “The Unbound Suite.”
Lunn explained that the suite speaks to the misconception of being wheelchair bound. “We are not wheelchair bound, we are boundless,” said Lunn.
“The dancers were great, my friends loved it,” said Mohanned Sattar. Sattar who is a candidate in the Student Government elections explained the performance showed that “nothing is impossible, you just need people to support you.”
“It was a proud moment,” said Lisa Maycock, CSD’s accommodations specialist. Maycock is also the Faculty Advisor for the Helping Hands Club. “I was proud of the students because they took charge of the event.