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Disability Awareness Month Schedule Features Poetry Slam Champion, Highlights Accommodation and Action

Ferris State UniversityA schedule of six events will be offered on the Ferris State University campus, this October, during Disability Awareness Month, with the goal of fostering acceptance and understanding.

Maggie Walcott, an administrative assistant to Ferris President David Eisler, is a member of the subcommittee organizing Disability Awareness Month. She said the committee is thrilled to offer a variety of activities, which they hope reaches a diverse audience of students, faculty, the university’s staff and the Big Rapids community.

“Nearly all of our events can be attended free of charge,” Walcott said. “It is our hope, through films, speakers and other programs, to demonstrate that preconceived notions about disability hinder good communication, while we encourage a dialogue that encourages learning, and inclusiveness.”

On Thursday, Oct. 5, the movie “Lives Worth Living” will be shown in Room 115 of the Interdisciplinary Resource Center, beginning at 6 p.m. This film highlights the efforts of a group of mid-20th century advocates, who sought to remove the restrictions and limitations society had placed on those classified as having a disability.

Kim Dickman, an assistant professor in Education Counseling and Disabilities, is chair of the Liaison Committee for Students with Disabilities. She said excitement is building ahead of the visit from poet Neil Hilborn, Tuesday, Oct. 10.

“We’re expecting a large crowd in Room 111 of the Business building, as Neil’s presentation gets underway at 5:30 p.m.,” Dickman said. “Students across the country get on board with his Poetry Slam experience. Neil’s willingness to speak out about dealing with both Obsessive-Compulsive and Bipolar Disorder gives voice to what is a largely invisible disability. We are very pleased to have him here, to speak to us.”

A resource fair will be held prior to Hilborn’s presentation, during which art therapist Kerry Huver, with the Grand Rapids Therapy Group, said she will be happy to explain the benefits of her specialty to those who approach her.

“It is more than coloring in a book, which can be a therapeutic activity,” Huver said. “A real art therapist will have a Master of Science degree, or more advanced studies, so they can best respond to and support their clients.”

Huver said the art practiced in art therapy does not have to be tangible.

“There can be drawings, or paintings, or music, as the chosen medium simply helps the patient bring out a message that they may not be able to verbalize,” Huver said.

Walcott said an interactive experience will be available to the audience for the film, “Best and Most Beautiful Things,” which will be shown in IRC 115 at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

“Director Garrett Zevgetis made a personal search for beauty, which took him to the Perkins School for the Blind, near Boston,” Walcott said. “That is where he found Michelle, a student, and his filmmaking team spent five years developing her story. We are thankful to Glen Okonoski, of the Television and Digital Media Production department, for facilitating our Skype discussion, that night, with Garrett and Michelle, following the film.”

Final events on the Disability Awareness Month schedule include a presentation and discussion on the Paws With a Cause program, to be held in Room 217B of the University Center Building at 11 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 26. At halftime of the Ferris men’s basketball game against Grand Rapids Community College, Saturday, Oct. 28, the Grand Rapids Pacers wheelchair basketball team will exhibit its skills. The Pacers compete, nationally, with a high-energy, entertaining style that challenges the notions of what disabled really is. On Tuesday, Oct. 31, a Forum for Inclusion and Understanding, “disABILITY, DEBUNKED!” will begin at 11 a.m. in the University Center Ballroom. Ferris faculty, staff and students will offer presentations on their experiences with disabilities, with the goal of ending those assumptions that limit movement toward a more inclusive future, and society.

“This is our capstone event, a chance to review what we have learned during the month,” Walcott said. “We ask that those who would like to attend, and enjoy lunch with us, to RSVP for the forum.”

Dickman said she hopes the Disability Awareness Month schedule helps those students who have had accommodations available during their formative education understand what is possible, through Ferris’ Education Counseling and Disabilities office.

“We want students to know similar accommodations remain available,” Dickman said. “A student’s hesitance to pursue help in this way is their own choice. We simply offer them the chance to register with our office, so we can discuss options, and they might consider any opportunities that would apply to them, as they see fit.”

PHOTO CAPTION: College National Poetry Slam champion Neil Hilborn will visit Ferris State University as one of the presenters during Disability Awareness Month, this October. The schedule of six events has been organized by the Liaison Committee for Students with Disabilities.