York Puts the “Ability” in Disability

April is Disability Awareness month CUNY-wide.
April is Disability Awareness month CUNY-wide.

April marks CUNY’s annual Disability Awareness month, when  campuses across the University hold a series of events promoting awareness and celebrating disabilities.
          The month is meant to celebrate and honor students who excel in academia, despite suffering from a disability, said Truett Vaigneur, an adjunct professor and CUNY leads advisor. Vaigneur, a member of the Center for Students With Disabilities, has  been key in planning a number of events as part of the annual celebration.
          “April is a particularly special month,” said Lisa Maycock, disabilities accommodations specialist. “This year’s theme is See the Ability Within Disability.”
          The events begin with a poster campaign in York College’s atrium.  Each poster displayed will be designed around a student, with pictures that show how their disability may impact their daily lives and will include a personal message from the student.
          “I embraced myself and my abilities- it was never about being legally blind, it was always about being strong and independent,” said Vidya Watie, a York College graduate.  “I would like to educate people who are chronically ill and let them know they can stay healthy. I’d like to reach out to the disability community, especially those who are legally blind.”
          The events also include a discussion panel and a movie screening. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) panel will feature guest speakers Yolanda Adams, vocational and rehabilitation counselor with Access VR and Jocelyn Tan Lobo, executive director of compliance with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
          “This panel is important because it is dealing with an act that is protecting a group of intelligent, hardworking and educated students that happen to be differently abled,” said Vaigneur. “Many of our students here at York are unaware of how profound this act is.  The panel will spark interest and motivation in the ADA and therefore increase our students’ awareness of their educational and career options.  We hope, after the panel, everyone will own a copy of the ADA.”
          There will also be a screening of Dyslexia: The Movie, sponsored by York’s Helping Hands club, which aims to address the issues surrounding dyslexic children in America which is a growing problem.
          The final event will be the Disability Awareness Celebration. The event will feature a wheelchair dance performance by the Infinity Dance Theater. There will also be a special musical presentation by York student and Slam Drum creator Richard Holmes along with a performance by the Kenny and James Duo, both local celebrities.
          “It’s the first time I’m performing for my club,” said Kenny Burdier, music major and vice-president of Helping Hands club. “It’s the only time, since I’m graduating in June.”
          All students are encouraged to attend the events. “We always want mixed events,” said Maycock. “Its beneficial on both sides.”
          Moving forward Vaigneur hopes for a theme surrounding integration next year. “ We want our students to integrate into mainstream campus culture,” said Vaigneur. “Students are students, whether you are differently abled, a minority, speak four languages, a psych major or a theater major, we see the issues students face as universal.  I would like to see more integration between the CUNY campuses during disabilities awareness month.”
          “During this month it gives us a chance to continue to educate the campus on disabilities and highlight a population that may be invisible,” said Veras.  “They are on campus, they are not invisible and despite some difficulties or challenges, they can be as successful as anyone else on campus.”

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